East Tennessee State University broke ground Thursday morning on the construction of a new Johnson City Downtown Day Center on West Fairview Avenue. The building is being built through a $1 million federal grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration received by ETSU’s College of Nursing Family Practice Network.
The Day Center, located at 202 W. Fairview Ave., provides health care and other services to the homeless population in the region. The College of Nursing has been serving homeless individuals for more than 25 years and has done so at the Day Center facility since 2005. The new, 4,365 square-foot facility, will be located on the same property as the existing Day Center and will feature updated resources and medical equipment, allowing for the expansion of medical, behavioral and social health services for the homeless.
During a groundbreaking ceremony at the site, Dr. Wilsie Bishop, vice president for Health Affairs at ETSU, called it an “exciting day for ETSU and for the region as a whole.”
“Through the creation of this new facility, we aim to take a holistic approach to improving the lives of the homeless population of our region,” Bishop added. “We will increase our level of services by providing health care and social services five days a week, which will allow for onsite medical testing and improving the basic needs of these individuals – everything from laundry and shower facilities to recovery programs and life skills training.”
Also at the event, Mountain States Health Alliance President and CEO Alan Levine spoke of ETSU’s partnership with the health system to provide quality care to the people of the region.
“We’re proud to partner with ETSU in this endeavor, which will provide services to improve the health and wellbeing of our area’s homeless population,” Levine said. “We recognize that concerns like food, housing, literacy and employment are all linked to health, and this day center will offer a comprehensive approach to addressing these issues for some of the most vulnerable members of our community.”
Mountain States owned the property for years, but has since donated the land to ETSU for the construction of the new facility. The current facility will remain open during the time that the new center is being built on the property.
On average, the Day Center records more than 11,000 visits annually, including more than 300 primary care appointments and nearly as many mental health appointments. Through the project, ETSU officials expect to see a 150 percent increase in the number of individuals who are served by the Day Center, with availability of individual patient resources increasing by more than 400 percent.
“There is obviously a growing need for these services and the ETSU College of Nursing is proud to have helped provide healthcare to the underserved of the region since the 1990s,” said Dr. Wendy Nehring, dean of the College of Nursing. “Through our new Day Center and our 12 other nurse-led clinics throughout the region, we will continue to offer these essential services to many of the people who truly need them the most.”