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Mike O'Grady, right, interim CEO of the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council, talks with Puneet Leekha, Chestnut Health Systems' chief operating officer, during a tour of Chestnut Family Health Center's $8 million expanded location at 702 W. Chestnut St., Bloomington, during a community leaders' open house on Monday, March 11, 2019.

BLOOMINGTON — Community leaders on Monday toured one response to McLean County's growing need for more integrated medical care for the medically under-served.

Chestnut Health Systems had an open house for community leaders and a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its 32,000-square-foot Chestnut Family Health Center at 702 W. Chestnut St., Bloomington.

The health center for individuals and families at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level will open at its new, $8 million location on March 20, said health center Executive Director Dietra Kulicke. It will replace the existing 8,000-square-foot health center location at 720 W. Chestnut St.

"This is an indication of the future for Chestnut and for health care delivery for a large segment of the community," said Chestnut Health Systems Chief Operating Officer Puneet Leekha.

"Health care is critical to the quality of life of a community," said Mike O'Grady, interim CEO of the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council, which successfully lobbied for federal money for the health center. It receives federal dollars as a federally qualified health center.

"These kinds of services are absolutely critical as the community moves forward," O'Grady said.

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Chestnut Health Systems CEO Dave Sharar, left, discusses benefits of the Chestnut Family Health Center with McLean County Board Chairman John McIntyre during a community leaders' open house at the health center, 702 W. Chestnut St., Bloomington, on Monday, March 11, 2019. The health center is quadrupling in size at its new location in an $8 million project.

The goal of the health center is to provide coordinated care by a multi-disciplinary team providing physical and mental health services in the same location, Kulicke said. Family practice physicians and nurses, a psychiatrist, case managers, social workers, pharmacists and pharmacy techs will be among people working at the health center, which expects to increase its number of employees from 33 to 60 within a year or two.

"We expect to increase from 2,300 patients to 5,000 over the next three to four years for primary care," Kulicke said.

Dental services are expected to be added late this year or early next year, Leekha said.

"They'll be able to get whole-person care in one place," Leekha said.

"Ultimately what results is a more productive society," said Chestnut CEO Dave Sharar.

McLean County Board Chairman John McIntyre noted that the county mental health action plan called for more collaboration among providers.

"Anybody who is in need of care and can't afford it has a place to come to receive benefits of a clinic that can provide medical, dental and psychological care, counseling and social services," McIntyre said.

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Discussing the expanded Chestnut Family Health Center at its community leaders' open house on Monday, March 11, 2019, were, left to right, health center Executive Director Dietra Kulicke, Chestnut board member Eliazar Mendiola and Chestnut Board Chair Mary Ann Webb.

When the health center opens, it will have 18 exam rooms, a pharmacy, a lab, consultation spaces for patients to meet with staff and a teaching kitchen and meeting room for community agencies to conduct classes.

The $8 million expansion is being covered by $1 million from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration and $7 million from Chestnut Health Systems, Leekha said.

No decision has been made on the future of the 720 W. Chestnut St. building, which is owned by Chestnut, Leekha said.

Contact Paul Swiech at (309) 820-3275. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_swiech

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Health Reporter

Health reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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