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The future of health care is blossoming in the Heartside District

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artist rendering of completed facility courtesy of Design Plus

artist rendering of completed facility courtesy of Design Plus

If you’ve been near St. Mary’s Hospital on Jefferson or otherwise close to the corner of Cherry and Sheldon recently, you may have noticed a large area of new construction underway. What is being built on the former parking lot at Cherry Street between Sheldon and LaGrave Streets is the “Heart of the City Health Center.”

According to The Heart of the City Health Center's literature and the knowledge I've gained having worked in the mental health field for more than seven years, what is unique about yet another healthcare facility being built in Grand Rapids is it's on the cutting edge of the future of health care; it will address patients' medical conditions using a holistic approach and will provide services to individuals and families of low income. By addressing physical health issues, mental health issues and substance use disorders all under one roof, experts in these areas of care will work as a cohesive team and will be able to communicate with one another assuring each patient’s overall health care requirements are being taken into consideration. The emphasis is on seeing the patient’s health as “one system."

When the building’s structure is complete and daily operations are fully functional, this state-of-the-art, LEED-certified facility will be a merger of three currently existing treatment organizations: Cherry Street Health Services, Touchstone-innovare’ and Proaction Behavioral Health Alliance.

As doctors, social workers, therapists and other medical professionals have been learning over the years, a lack of communication between primary care physicians, psychiatrists and other treatment providers is often a barrier to effective treatment for people who receive medical services from more than one source. This obstacle to wellness can be removed by bringing all of these medical professionals together as a treatment team, providing integrated health care. 

Also, many people of modest income find it much more difficult to navigate their way to several different places for treatment due to limited resources in general and such situations as a lack of availability of time away from their job duties or reliance on public transportation. By having multiple services available in one place, these low income individuals and families will find it less challenging to get their health care needs met and will therefore be healthier and not require more expensive treatment which sometimes is the result under the current system of care.

As the adage says, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This new facility will help contain costs associated with the relationship between being impoverished and having multiple health care needs. Did you know that currently 40% of the low-income population here in Kent County goes untreated due to a lack of capacity for treatment? And of those 40%, nearly half are children.

Did someone say “we need jobs?” This project will bring approximately 120 new professional jobs and maintain more than 225 current jobs, while also stimulating the economy by way of the new construction which got underway in April 2010 and is expected to be finished sometime in summer 2011. Also, approximately 67% of the funding will come to our community from outside sources. Of the $22.5 million goal for this integrated health care facility, just $4 million is being asked of the philanthropic community.  As our community, like most other communities in the United States, is experiencing a soaring need for health care, current facilities only have the capacity to serve about 60% of the medical needs of the low income population in Kent County. While the remaining 40% of this population utilizes emergency room visits out of necessity or simply goes without care, this new facility will help alleviate this ever-increasing strain on our existing medical system and ensure that this population, including many children, has access to necessary health care. It is hoped that this integrated health care facility will serve as a model for other U.S. communities to emulate.

Some interesting facts directly from the Heart of the City Health Center’s literature:

  • Leverage - "78% of the funding needed for this project will be brought into the community from outside resources if we can raise the local contributions.”
  • Jobs - "This project will bring 120 new professional jobs and maintain over 250 current jobs in the Heartside district.”
  • Increased capacity - "Over 13,000 new patients will receive first-class services through this expansion project, bringing the total served at Heart of the City to 27,000.”
  • Environmental impact - "This project is targeted for LEED certification. It will also clean up a brownfield site in downtown Grand Rapids.”
  • Quality Care - "The new facility will ease severe overcrowding, reduce operating expenses, and dramatically increase availability of services, especially to children.” A New Model Altarum Institute and Health Management Associates are consulting with the team to create a curriculum of integrated physical and behavioral health care delivery. In addition, all patient information will be easily shared through an electronic medical records system, and staff will work in treatment teams for people with co-occurring conditions.”

The “Heart of the City Health Center” construction is being performed by Pioneer Construction, a commercial building company headquartered here in Grand Rapids.

For more information about the Heart of the City Health Center, please visit:



  1. Per the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED is an internationally recognized green building certification system providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.
  2. Per The EPA, a brownfield site is defined, in part, as, “…real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.”


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