CCHCI breaks ground on 20,000-square-foot Family Health Center in Willcox


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Ana Gonzales, Carrie Gustavson, Mayor Laws, Congressman Ciscomani, Melany Barton-Edwards, and Kelly Owen, were first to break ground on the future Willcox Family Health Center. HECTOR ACUNA HERALD/REVIEW

 

WILLCOX – On Tuesday, Chiricahua Community Health Centers Inc. broke ground on a new clinic location in Willcox, a planned 20,000-square-foot medical facility with a lab and pharmacy.
A reception celebrating the announcement took place in the Willcox City Council chambers.
It was a full house as executives and staff from CCHC, city officials, and Willcox and Sierra Vista area chambers of commerce were represented. The crowd was also treated to a few words from Rep. Juan Ciscomani of Arizona’s 6th Congressional District.

The planned Willcox Family Health Center is projected to cost between $10 and $12 million.

But first, the CCHC will build a temporary clinic while the main facility is constructed, allowing it to service patients sooner. Staging would also allow CCHC to seek additional funding.
The 2,130 square-foot modular building has already been purchased, according to CCHC CEO Dr. Jonathan Melk, so the next stage is to place it, and build parking and lighting for the health center. He expects the facility to be functional sometime midyear, but that’s a loose target.

Melk said the center applied for federal money to build a Willcox clinic in 2019, but the demands of dealing with the COVID pandemic diverted those funds elsewhere.
Then, in 2021 the feds awarded CCHCI an infrastructure grant and that allowed for the purchase of more than 20 acres off Rex Allen Drive.
CCHC is a nonprofit primary health care organization and a Federally Qualified Health Center, part of a national safety net of 1,450 clinics/centers located in every state, serving more than 30 million patients. Arizona has 23 FQHCs.

To receive these federal grants there’s a major requirement that must be met — the facility must serve high-needs areas like rural Cochise County, and they can’t turn patients away based on income. “Every single inch of Cochise County is deemed a shortage area by the federal and state government,” Melk said. Chiricahua is not a new name in the Willcox area. It began work here with mobile health services in 2000-01, providing health care services to farm laborers and establishing a mobile medical service unit.

In 2006 CCHC added dental services, and in 2014 expanded service days by teaming with the Willcox Unified School District to park its mobile units at the schools.
In the county the 465 employees serve about 33,000 patients.

Melk led the presentation, first introducing himself, then individually calling his guests, which included Willcox Mayor Mike Laws; Melany Barton-Edwards, CEO of the Sierra Vista Chamber of Commerce; and CCHC Board Chair Carrie Gustavson.

“After 23 years of providing mobile health care, our next step to better serve the Willcox area will be to put a new modular clinic in the coming months,” Melk said. “That will allow us to significantly increase both pediatric and adult medical services five day per week. This will be a real net gain in primary care for northern Cochise County.”
“To have you here, and to provide the kind of service you’re gonna provide, I think is phenomenal,” Laws said. “I appreciate it; the town appreciates it.”
The mayor introduced Ciscomani, who began, like Laws, by thanking CCHC.

“I’m honored to be here and celebrate the groundbreaking of the newest member of the Chiricahua family, the Wilcox family Health Center,” the congressman began. “This is a big deal … I sensed it immediately when I walked in — the joy, pride, all the work accomplished together. And for choosing Willcox, a great, vibrant, growing community, to have this center, I think it makes a lot of sense.”

Ciscomani spoke of his relationship with Laws, calling him “a good friend that we’ve been partnering together with for quite some time now and getting these things done.”
Last summer, Ciscomani helped local Northern Cochise Community Hospital acquire $859,000 in funding to rebuild the main and emergency entrance.
“I’m proud of the American dream, and I think available health care for everyone and affordable care is part of being able to achieve that, and being able to live in this country the best way that we can,” Ciscomani said. “Then it’s up to government leaders to be able to create those environments, for the private sector to also create those jobs, and make sure that our community rises all together. That’s why this community is such a shining star, for doing all this together.”

Following the speakers, the group moved across the street for a ceremonial groundbreaking complete with gold-tipped red shovels.
CCHC Executive Director Dennis Walto organized the obligatory photos in front of a sign, announcing the empty lot as the future site of the Willcox Family Health Center.
Following the event Ciscomani changed from a suit for a warm jacket. He was on his way to Chiricahua National Monument for a visit to Massai Point and the Faraway Ranch area, completing a Southeastern Arizona tour that started in Tucson that day.

 

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CCHCI breaks ground on 20,000-square-foot Family Health Center in Willcox

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