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Peoria County breaks ground on new Health and Human Services building

Peoria HHS Groundbreaking.jpg
Collin Schopp
/
WCBU
Peoria County and city leaders ceremonially break ground Tuesday at the future site of the Peoria County Health and Human Services Campus.

After more than 70 years, the Peoria City/County Health Department has a new building on the horizon. The new campus will stand on the same spot on Sheridan Road and include more agencies and organizations.

The county officially broke ground Tuesday on the future Peoria County Health and Human Services Campus. Sharon Williams, chair of the Peoria County Board health committee, said the groundbreaking was several years in the making.

“Today is probably the work of about a year of analyzing data and looking at various locations,” said Williams. “And maybe we looked at 30 different locations before we decided that it needed to remain where it was.”

Williams said the location at 2116 N. Sheridan Road provides the most convenience for the people who frequently use county health services. According to her, that’s people from the 61603, 61604 and 61605 zip codes. The current building also sits on an easily accessible bus route.

Another advantage of the new building is a wider variety of services. The new health campus, costing more than $19 million, will include the Peoria County Coroner’s office, Regional Office of Education and the Sustainability and Resource Conservation Department — in addition to the health department. Williams said there are benefits for every organization involved.

“The Regional Office of Education was very excited about this, because she actually has been doing a lot of work with the health department,” said Williams. “So bringing those two groups together is really, I think, important.”

Regional Superintendent Elizabeth Crider agreed, saying health and education are closely linked.

“Why a regional office of education?” asked Crider. “Because a healthy ... child and family show up at school ready to learn, and teachers, educators and administrators can do their job.”

Williams said the new building also will provide some needed changes for coroner Jamie Harwood’s current office.

“The building was just not designed to be a coroner's office,” she said. “So what we're designing for him is a state-of-the- art coroner's office, so he'll be able to serve better.”

Harwood said he’s also excited about the proximity to other community agencies.

“I think this is just going to elevate what we do,” he said. “When we talk about evidence-based best practice, I think this is really going to help us elevate everything that we do, forensically speaking.”

One of the new features is an additional autopsy room, and space for law enforcement to be present during autopsies. Harwood said this will allow law enforcement to work collaboratively with the forensic pathologists.

“This is going to provide them an opportunity to see through a glass,” Harwood said. “With the communication in between the glass to be able to see what's going on and talk with the doctor. So that's huge.”

Even though the new building will house more employees and organizations, Williams said it will actually be smaller.
“It is going to be two floors,” she said. “But it is going to be considerably smaller.”

A mock-up of the potential design for the Peoria County Health and Human Services Campus.
WCBU
/
Collin Schopp

The final design is still in -progress. The county is working with the Farnsworth Group, River City Construction and GIVSCO Construction. Williams said there was a finished design, but it went over the intended budget of $19 million. Funding is coming from unspent American Rescue Plan dollars, and money the county already was saving to replace the roof on the current health department building.

Peoria City/County Health Department’s Public Health Administrator Monica Hendrickson also is excited to have a better facility for their patients, staff and community partners.

“It's just a lot of our partnerships,” she said. “But we're just now able to do it closer together.”

For example, Hendrickson said the health department regularly coordinates with the office of education on mental health, emergency preparedness and sexually transmitted infection education, and also work with the coroner’s office on death certificates and data.

During construction, Hendrickson said the health department will be “decentralized,” with employees in offices across the county.

“We do have spaces that we are renting as well as partnerships that we're relying on to really cover the gamut,” she said. “We are very excited about it.”

Williams said the final design process should be done sometime in the next few weeks. She expects construction to begin in late 2022/early 2023 and be finished by late 2023.

For more information on where to receive services from the health department during construction, you can go the health department’s website here.

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Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.