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Here's why Elmwood is leading the charge for a new regional Rural Health and Wellness Center

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Rural Health & Wellness Initiative
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A rendering of the Rural Health and Wellness Center concept just north of Elmwood on Route 78.

A health hub concept in the Elmwood area is progressing to the next stage of development.

Elmwood Community Foundation president Dick Taylor said the effort to build a Rural Health and Wellness Center for the region is years in the making. It began around 2014, when the foundation began talking about opening a fitness center. The idea evolved into something more after a visit to the Hopedale Medical Complex.

"They have a fitness center within their hospital area. And it was titled a Wellness Center. And so that made us see this project a little differently," he said. "And we felt that it would serve our area much better if we could expand what it offered."

That's where strategic community partnerships began to come in. Canton's Graham Health System and the Greater Peoria Family YMCA were soon sold on the concept.

"It's really a no brainer, said Bob Senneff, president and CEO of Graham Health System.

"We need to keep our populations healthy, not just fix them when they break. And that's really where our efforts are in terms of that whole healthier lifestyle."

Andy Thornton, president and CEO of the Greater Peoria Family YMCA, said the multifaceted collaboration behind the Rural Health and Wellness Center will make it stronger.

"It's not only going to cover the reactive medical care for folks that live in that region. But it'll it'll also provide a space for preventative medical care, where people can come in and access facilities and programs and services that are going to help them become healthier, from a physical standpoint."

In addition to an existing Graham clinic on the site off Illinois Route 78, the 33,000 square foot center would also include a fitness center, physical therapy and rehabilitation, health education, a pool, a community space, and behavioral health services.

"It's really going to serve the needs of everyone, right from cradle to grave," said Thornton.

The center would serve the estimated 20,000 residents of Peoria, Fulton, and Knox counties living within a 20-mile radius of Elmwood. Senneff said the demand is already there. He noted the existing Elmwood and Williamsfield clinics have seen patients from over 100 different ZIP codes.

"It really is a regional perspective. And people will drive that 20 minutes to work out, or to get their rehab, or to swim in the pool, or to have a birthday party or to have a high school graduation in the community room," he said.

People currently are driving to Galesburg or Peoria for those many of those services, Thornton said.

"Small towns deserve these services, right? And they need to be available, where they live, because they're more accessible that way," said Thornton. "And people feel more comfortable in going there, then maybe coming to the big city."

The Rural Health and Wellness Center's capital feasibility study is currently underway. That will be the basis for a fundraising campaign expected to wrap up by the year's end. Taylor said he hopes to break ground sometime in 2023.

U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood (R-Dunlap) is requesting a $4 million earmark in fiscal year 2023 appropriations for the Elmwood project. The total fundraising goal is around $12 million, with $2 million going towards an endowment to sustain operations.

The partner organizations are also seeking out additional groups to participate in the Rural Health and Wellness Center. Click here for more information.

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