By Karen Stokes
On Tuesday, the Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers (SSCHC), known for providing healthcare, health education, and social services without language, cultural, or economic barriers, revealed expansion plans during a ceremonial groundbreaking.
The three-story, 21,000-square-foot expansion located at 1032 South Cesar E. Chavez Drive will feature primary medical care, a new pharmacy, behavioral health services, social services, and wellness classes.
The groundbreaking also celebrated an announcement of Froedtert Health’s generous gift of $4.7 million to complete the project. More than $2 million of the totaled $9 million project came from the State Healthcare Infrastructure Grant through American Rescue Plan grant that was awarded to SSCHC by Governor Tony Evers in March of 2022.
Congresswoman Gwen Moore was instrumental in securing $1.25 million in funding to help progress the project. Other funding resources include the federal Health Resources and Services Administration which provided another $1 million. The total cost of the expansion is just over $9 million.
“Every Wisconsinite should have access to quality, affordable healthcare, and I know that’s a belief the good folks at Sixteenth Street and I share,” said Gov. Evers. “I was glad to support this project with more than $2 million from our allocation of federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to build upon Sixteenth Street’s critical work and ensure thousands more families on the South Side of Milwaukee get access to the care they need.”
In February 2022, SSCHC purchased the adjacent property at 1018 Caesar Chavez Drive for around $200,000. The existing building is being demolished to clear space for the upcoming structure, which will be linked to the clinic. Additionally, SSCHC is working on solutions to tackle parking issues. The architectural design is by GROTH Design Group, and the construction is being handled by Berghammer for the expansion.
The expansion will enable SSCHC to relocate its Lead Program and Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program from their current site at 1337 South Cesar E Chavez Drive to the Chavez Clinic. This move will better serve the community and advance the integrated health care approach. The highly utilized WIC program at Sixteenth Street supports expectant families with nutritional counseling, lead screenings, breastfeeding advice, and medical resources. Co-locating the WIC program with pediatrics will enhance SSCHC’s integrated healthcare model. Last year, around 8,000 patients participated in SSCHC’s WIC program.
SSCHC operates seven clinics in Milwaukee and one in Waukesha. These clinics offer primary medical care, behavioral health services, substance abuse services, social services, various supplemental services, community advocacy and overall family health care, and provide bilingual care to everyone regardless of insurance status. In addition, SSCHC has clinics in 23 schools, the most recent of which is located inside of South Division High School, a satellite geriatric clinic at the United Community Center as well as a Women, Infant and Children (WIC)clinic. SSCHC’s current capacity is nearly 200,000 annual visits.
“We are excited about it because there are several things that are going to happen in the community and it really reinforces our philosophy of a one stop shop where patients can come and get services from a trusted person under one roof and get everything that they need,” said Dr. Schuller. “Currently we don’t have a pharmacy and we’re excited to have a pharmacy so as patients leave their appointment, they can pick up their prescription. Also, we’re going to add some mental health capacities. The demand in this community for mental health care has gone up significantly. We added additional space to meet those demands as well as substance abuse here.”
Milwaukee County’s online data reveals that the neighborhoods surrounding its main clinic experience the highest drug overdose rates in the county. The 53204 ZIP code, where the clinic is located, has seen over 300 fatal overdoses since 2015, making it the county’s most affected area. The nearby 53215 ZIP code also reports a considerable number of fatal overdoses.
The expansion will not only bring additional health services but increased economic activity.
“We see ourselves as a real anchor in the community. In general we have 420 jobs and we know we provide a lot of economic engine to the community just by hiring local companies to do the contracting work that we need,” Schuller said. This will continue to add to the jobs that we already have. We’re anticipating adding 10-20 jobs. We bring a lot of economic activity to this community.”
The upcoming clinic and headquarters at 1032 South Cesar E Chavez Drive in Milwaukee are set to open in the fall of 2024.