[caption id="attachment_87725" align="alignright" width="350"] Pictured left to right: Tom Anderson, SVCHC board member; Cheryl Johson, SVCHC CEO; Sonoma Mayor Tom Rouse; Sonoma County Supervisor Susan Gorin; Rep. Mike Thompson; Susan Drake, SVCHC board chair; and board members Laura Stovall, Pamela Stephens, Linda McTaggart and Marc Schwager[/caption]

SONOMA -- The Sonoma Valley Community Health Center recently broke ground on a new, 18,000-square-foot facility that will help it treat an expected influx of patients amid expansion under health care reform, nearly tripling the size of its current location.

The new location, at 19270 Sonoma Highway in a former strip mall, will nearly triple the size of the health center upon completion, expected in June for an opening in July, officials said. It will replace the current center at 430 W. Napa St.

Funding for the center comes from a $5 million grant under the Affordable Care Act, the latest example of Sonoma County's numerous FQHCs expanding with help from the health law. It was procured with the help of U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, whose district includes Sonoma. Financing for the land was about $6.2 million.

The move, long in the planning stages, will enable the health center to increase its patient load by 30 percent from 7,000 to about 9,100, according to Cheryl Johnson, CEO of the health center. It currently sees some 30,000 patient visits annually, making it the largest primary care provider in Sonoma Valley for Medi-Cal, low income and uninsured patients.

[caption id="attachment_87726" align="alignleft" width="378"] Rendering of Sonoma Valley Community Health Center interior[/caption]

“We have been preparing for the transformation and expansion of the Sonoma Valley Community Health Center for over eight years,” Ms. Johnson said during the ground breaking ceremony. “This is a big and exciting day for us and for the community we support.

Rep. Thompson, who attended the groundbreaking ceremony, touted the Affordable Care Act for helping to expand nonprofit health centers.

“You don’t have to look any further than the new community health center in Sonoma Valley to see that health care reform is creating jobs and improving access to quality care,” said  Rep. Thompson.

[caption id="attachment_87727" align="alignright" width="315"] Rendering of a Sonoma Valley Community Health Center examination room[/caption]

Also attending the ceremony was Sonoma County Supervisor Susan Gorin, Sonoma Mayor Tom Rouse and scores of other supporters of the health center.

“We’re recognizing the importance of the Sonoma Valley Community Health Center and its role in the community and the essential services it provides,” Ms. Gorin said.

Construction and design is being handled by Neenan Architecture, a Colorado-based firm with more than 20 years of experience working with federally qualified health centers.

The new community health center will include a family practice clinic, obstetrics and specialty services wing, integrated behavioral health services, a dental clinic, health navigator center and a community education center, all in one location.