Oak Park-based PCC Wellness Center hosted a grand opening for its eighth community health center in the Oak Park and Chicago area on Saturday.
The $5.4 million facility is located in the Austin community at 5425 W. Lake St. The Austin Family Health Center will provide health care to residents of Austin and surrounding neighborhoods. Saturday’s grand opening brought out elected officials, including Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.
“The Austin community is a great community; you have great families, great churches; schools that are changing and turning around,” he said. “I really appreciate all those involved – the board of directors, volunteers, campaign people and the wonderful staff that make up this facility.”
The primary goal of the center is for Austin residents to have access to high-quality health care regardless of their economic circumstances, explained Robert Urso, president and CEO of PCC Wellness Center. The two-story structure is located in what was a vacant lot alongside the CTA Green Line. The city sold the land to the Wellness Center – valued at $345,000 – for $1. The Austin center will have a strong emphasis on maternal and child care services, provided without regard to an individual’s income or insurance status.
“In the midst of this difficult economic time the need for this health center is greater then ever,” Urso said.
Also in attendance Saturday: U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin; Illinois Treasurer and U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias; Cook County Commissioner Earlean Collins; and Oak Park legislators State Sen. Don Harmon (39th) and state representatives Deborah Graham (78th), and LaShawn Ford (8th).
“This building is through the collaboration between the public and private sector, community and those who worked with PCC Wellness Center and others – the city of Chicago led by the mayor’s office and the aldermen locally,” said Harmon.
PCC Community Wellness Center began in 1980 to provide health care services for underserved residents on Chicago’s West Side. Originally called the Parent Child Center housed inside West Suburban Hospital, it has grown to now eight health centers in Chicago and west suburbs. It’s currently headquartered at 14 West Lake St. in Oak Park.
PCC volunteer Larinda McKelvy spoke at the grand opening about what the centers have meant to her. She had been a patient for two years, including prenatal care for herself and 18-month-old son. She’s currently a volunteer community health worker.
“I first came to PCC when I was pregnant with my son, Logan. I chose PCC because it was close to my house and convenient. But over the years I stayed with PCC because of the excellent prenatal care they provided me,” McKelvy said.
“This is a wonderful morning when you think of all the governing agencies and nonprofits working together for PCC Wellness program. We all have differences, but as we work together it doesn’t matter who you are; then we can get the job done. I congratulate all the elected officials, all the staff and Ald. Ed Smith for realizing what can take place here on the West Side of the city of Chicago.”
“Think about America a year ago in a recession, losing $700,000 jobs a month. The prospect of businesses closing, and a new president. He came up with the Reinvestment and Recovery Act that put, literally, billions of dollars back into the American economy, and he passed it without much help from the other side of the isle. This family health care center is going to give families a chance for quality health care.”
Sen. Richard Durbin
“This is one of my proudest days as state treasurer. This is a project we have worked on through our green energy program, a program that provides low interest loans to outstanding small businesses and community health centers throughout the state of Illinois. I am incredibly proud to play a very small role in the success of PCC Wellness Center of the Austin community, and of the great that is going to take place here for so many years.”
“This is certainly a great day for the Austin community to have such a state-of-the-art facility here. I’ve toured and it is a warm building, very welcoming to our constituents. It will enhance people’s comfort level to come here.”
State Rep. Deborah Graham
“This is truly a very proud moment for me. I think in the early ’90s or the late ’80s when cocaine-addicted babies were born at the Cook County Hospital simply because pregnant women and addicted women didn’t get any prenatal care. A kid cannot be educated if they are not healthy and a community cannot survive if the people are not educated.”
Commissioner Earlean Collins
“The Austin Family Health Center will enable us to dramatically increase affordable, quality health care and supportive services for one of Chicago’s most populous and under-serviced communities. With 16 newly-equipped exam rooms, we increase patient visits in Austin by 150 percent – from 13,000 a year to over 32,000.”
Carolyn Fitzpatrick, vice chairperson
of the PCC Board of Directors