[caption id="attachment_17409" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Artist rendering of the new Petaluma Health Center"][/caption]

PETALUMA -- The Petaluma Health Center received an early Christmas present from the federal government in the form of an $8.9 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act facility improvement grant, which, along with $500,000 in other federal appropriations, is earmarked to refurbish an existing building located at 1179 North McDowell Blvd.

This award is part of a nearly $600 million grant disbursement program announced last week designed to support major construction and renovation projects at 85 community health centers nationwide, including 11 in California.

It is also intended to create jobs in low-income communities and help local health centers serve more than 500,000 additional patients coast to coast. In addition, these funds are being provided to help health centers adopt electronic health records and other health information technology systems.

“We applied for the grant back in August. This award enables us to move forward quickly on plans to build out and remodel a new health facility in a 50,000-square-foot building less than a mile from our current location at 1301 Southpoint Blvd.,” said Kathie Powell, CEO of the Petaluma Health Center. “We outgrew our present facility a long time ago, and we have been making plans to relocate to new quarters for over six years. Frankly speaking, our present space is so limited we have been educating patients about living with diabetes in an old converted bathroom.”

When fully operational in November 2010, the refurbished facility will be a full-service Class III OSHPD clinic capable of addressing the health care needs of about 30,000 people in the community.   The Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development is a California state agency that has jurisdiction over hospitals and other state-funded facilities.

The nonprofit Petaluma Health Center was originally established in 1994 and currently has 110 employees, including 30 medical and dental professionals.  The new center will provide space for more than 90 additional employees.

The total cost of this Petaluma Health Center facility improvement project is $15.5 million, of which $6.7 million is for construction and $1.2 million for new equipment.  Additional funding will be obtained through a mortgage augmented by a capital campaign.

Remodeling work is being designed by DES Architects of Redwood City. Final drawings are expected in less than two months along with structural and engineering plans that include an efficient HVAC high turnover system and green design elements complete with skylights and solar energy upgrades.  Bids will be going out for a construction company and sub-contractors in the first quarter of 2010.

"This award gives us a once-in-a-lifetime chance to provide our physicians, workers and patients with a fabulous environment designed to support the cutting-edge services our clinicians provide,” said Mike Noel, president of the board of directors of Petaluma Health Center.

Mr. Noel said that the continuing rise in unemployment, with the resulting loss of medical benefits, combined with the fact that formerly employed workers are reaching the end of COBRA coverage limits, has produced an increase in demand for services.

“We are glad that federal project grants, like those we received for our health center and similar facilities in California and across the nation, will help create jobs within local health care service areas as well as stimulate job growth in the construction industry here in the North Bay and elsewhere,” he said.