After buying land on the West Side for $1 from the City of Chicago, a non-profit organization is set to expand its free health clinics and build a $4.8 million facility in the Austin community. A groundbreaking ceremony took place June 9 for the future Pa

While no date has been set for when construction will begin on the two-story, 18,300- square-feet facility to be built at 5425 W. Lake St., completion is expected by summer 2009. “We will be able to see 32,000 patients a year at the new Austin clinic-up from 13,000,” said Kevin Morrissey, a spokesman for the PCC Community Wellness Center, a nonprofit and the project’s developer.

“Not only will we be able to see 19,000 more patients a year but also provide free medical services to the uninsured.” Nearly 70 percent of PCC patients are poor families with no health insurance. PCC has additional health clinics in west suburban Oak Park and Melrose Park and two Chicago locations, added Morrissey.

Some Austin residents are pleased to hear about a free health clinic available for them. “One thing you can never get enough of and that’s health care,” said Lori Myles, 35, a single mother of twin girls age 8. “As you can imagine I am raising these girls on my own and I cannot afford to enroll us in my employer’s health plan because I am only making $24,000 a year.”

For some West Side residents, the new clinic offers a viable alternative to using John Stroger Jr. Hospital. Though the services are free for those who cannot afford to pay, the wait times for care are often an issue for patients. “I get tired of going to the county because it is always crowded,” said Darien Rogers, 40.

“Now I will not have to go so far to get my diabetes checked.” And while it is geared toward West Side residents the clinic will be open to everyone not just those living on the West Side. “I live on the South Side in Bronzeville but I work on the West Side and I still struggle paying for medical services,” said Shauna Austin, 29.

“I can only imagine what families with children go through when it comes to providing health care. I am single and I have a challenge providing health care for myself.” Costs for building the new clinic will be funded through low-interest loans, government and private grants as well as a capital campaign to raise $1.6 million, Morrissey said.

The general contractor for the project is Madison Construction while the Manske, Deickman and Thompson firm serves as the architect.

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