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Lake Superior Community Health Center breaks ground at new Superior site

Lake Superior Community Health Center could move its Superior practice to the new location by January 2022.

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Lake Superior Community Health Center will break ground Friday, July 16, for a new facility at the old Super One Foods location at 2222 E. Fifth St. (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

Lake Superior Community Health Center will move its Superior location to the city’s East End neighborhood.

A groundbreaking event for the new site, the former Super One Foods building at 2222 E. Fifth St., is set for Friday, July 16, at 2 p.m.

At 25,000 square feet, the new facility will offer room for the federally-qualified health center to expand all of its programs — family medicine, dentistry, counseling — and add chiropractic care in Superior. It will also bring all Superior care under one roof. Currently, the center operates an 18,000-square-foot facility at 3600 Tower Ave. and another location at 1500 N. 34th St.

Newly-minted Chief Executive Officer Jessie Peterson said the organization's goal is to open the new facility, which is a lease-to-own property, in January 2022.

RELATED: Northland health centers to receive $10 million for COVID-19 vaccine support Community health centers in Duluth, Grand Marais, and Cook, Minnesota, and Iron River, Wisconsin, will each receive $1 million-$4.5 million from the American Rescue Plan.

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Planning for the new building began before the pandemic struck.

“We spent almost a year looking for the right location,” Peterson said. “As a community health center, our mission is what anchors us.”

It was critical that the new facility was on a bus line, and in an area of town with an underserved population in regards to health care.

“Those pieces were really our driving force, so that made us very picky and limited where we could go,” Peterson said.

Other pros for the former Super One site include having a pharmacy two blocks away, the many locally owned businesses in the neighborhood, and being in a convenient location for people coming from rural Douglas County.

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A rendering by DSGW Architects shows what the completed Lake Superior Community Health Center at 2222 E. Fifth St. will look like. The center is hosting a groundbreaking ceremony Friday, July 16, with a goal of completing the build in January 2022. (Rendering courtesy of Lake Superior Community Health Center)

The design process took another year. It was, Peterson said, “an opportunity for us to really serve our patients in a way that we really want to.”

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The new facility is designed in a petal model, with each of the programs connected to a central lobby. The number of dental operatories in Superior will grow from eight to 12 and the exam rooms will jump from four to 13. Also included are an enhanced lab, play therapy room, on-site imaging — a first for organization — a wellness center and a dedicated patient pantry room, which will be stocked with clothes, food, hygiene items and more that clients can access.

Lake Superior Community Health Center will celebrate 50 years of serving the Twin Ports in 2022. It began as a free clinic in the first floor office space at Sacred Heart Music Center in 1972 and became a federally-qualified health center in 1993. In addition to Superior, the health center currently operates facilities in Duluth and Carlton County, Minnesota.

The construction project is a measure of the center’s dedication to the community, Peterson said.

“Being able to provide our patients with a really state-of-the-art new clinic facility is something that we’ve been striving for,” Peterson said.

The health center currently serves nearly 9,000 patients, according to Lee Homan, marketing and business development manager. It emphasizes integrated health care.

The pandemic highlighted how critical the nation's 1,400 community health centers are to the health care system because they offer innovative ways of treating patients and help vulnerable populations gain access to care, Peterson said.

“Since the 1960s, community health centers have received bipartisan support, because access to health care is one of those issues that just cuts through the political noise,” Peterson said.

The Twin Ports is a medically-rich community, but Lake Superior Community Health Center is a piece of the local health care puzzle. The facilities offer services to all — insured, underinsured, uninsured, Medical Assistance, Medicare, BadgerCare, MinnesotaCare — with a sliding fee scale for high deductibles.

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"We are really designed to be a different model of healthcare. And so I think that's what allows us to find our path and to walk on it and to have great relationships with other healthcare entities in the area," Peterson said.

Services will continue in Duluth and Carlton County.

"I think what COVID has really taught us is that we also need to keep looking at ways to decouple ourselves from one space ... making sure that we're also investing in our patients in ways that don't require them to necessarily come into our four walls," Peterson said.

That could include continued telehealth options, possible expansion of services in Carlton County and new models of bringing health care into the community.

New leader

The Lake Superior Community Health Center Board of Directors announced July 14 that Jessie Peterson will serve as permanent chief executive officer. She's been with the center since 2017 and stepped into the role of interim chief executive officer in January, according to a news release. Longtime former CEO Dayle Patterson died in February from leukemia.

"Jessie brings incredibly strong operations, strategy and development skills to this role. During her time as Interim-CEO, she demonstrated unwavering commitment to our patients, our mission and the quality care we provide,” said Shelly Marquardt, LSCHC board chair.

Peterson helmed the LSCHC team as it navigated the COVID-19 pandemic and served as a testing location and vaccinating agency.

“I’m very excited to see what we can do to not only continue our focus but make sure that we are truly refocused on how we best serve our communities,” Peterson said.

Visit the Lake Superior Community Health Center website for more information: https://lschc.org/ .

This story originally listed the incorrect spot where Lake Superior Community Health Center first operated. It was updated at 8:13 a.m. June 20, 2021. The center opened in the first floor of Sacred Heart Music Center. The Telegram regrets the error.

Related Topics: HEALTH NEWSSUPERIOR
Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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