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New health center to open July 22

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It’s been a long road, but the anticipated opening of Sonoma Valley Community Health Center’s new facility is now just three weeks away.

“It’s absolutely gorgeous,” said Health Center CEO Cheryl Johnson of the newly-renovated structure, located at 19270 Highway 12, across from Maxwell Village Shopping Center. Johnson said the 18,000-square-foot facility is slated to open July 22, though there is still much to be done.

For now, workers are putting on the finishing touches, administrators at the old facility at 430 W Napa St. are preparing for the move and Johnson is readying for some early visitors on Tuesday afternoon.

That’s when Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, and others will drop in to see how things are coming along. Thompson, who was present for the groundbreaking on Jan. 31, was instrumental in landing a $5 million federal grant for the new facility as part of a nationwide effort – through the Affordable Care Act – to expand the capacities of community health centers everywhere.

“What we’re anticipating right now is that we will see about a 30 percent bump in the number of patients” once the ACA’s changes fully take effect, Johnson said. Currently, the local health center struggles to accommodate about 30,000 visits annually from more than 7,000 patients.

Founded in 1992 by Cynthia Solomon – who died this year on May 29 – and Heidi Stovall, the Sonoma Valley Community Health Center (SVCHC) provides health care resources for the Valley’s uninsured and underserved residents. Today, the nonprofit is the only safety-net health care provider for Medicaid and the uninsured in the area, according to its website.

Johnson pointed out that besides more patients, the new facility allows SVCHC to add new services – dental health, for example, will become available to Medi-Cal and uninsured patients this September.

Similarly, a new machine at the facility that measures retinopathy – an eye condition often associated with diabetes – “will be a great benefit to our diabetic patients,” Johnson said.

“We’ve tried to design everything with the patient in mind,” she said.