Ceremony welcomes new Putnam health center

Less than year after ground was broken for a facility officials say will meet a critical need in the region, more than a 100 people returned Thursday to the same spot in Putnam to celebrate the formal opening of the Generations Family Health Center.

“There is a high number of uninsured and underinsured people here and a significant need for a community health center that takes all patients,” said Dr. Catherine Shafts, a family practitioner at the clinic and the regional medical director for Putnam and Danielson. “Those patients’ needs will run the gamut. It’s a beautiful building.”

The $4.7 million, 10,000-square-foot facility on Pomfret Road was paid for with $2.7 million in state funding, and the remainder came from private and public money. The building includes eight medical exam rooms and six dental rooms. Patients began visits last month.

The building was constructed to use geothermal heating and cooling technology. The facility will open three behavioral health offices in the coming months. Those mental health offices are opening at a crucial time, Generations Chief Operating Officer Melissa Bonsall said.

“With the economy, we’re seeing people with stressors that we hadn’t seen before,” she said.
“And we’re here for everyone — there’s no discrimination based on ability to pay. We expect to see 5,000 patients a year.”

Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and Senate Pro Tempore Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, joined community leaders, health advocates and well-wishers at Thursday’s ceremony.
Arvind Shaw, Generations’ chief executive officer, said the long path to Thursday’s dedication could be traced back to a 2002 formal needs assessment that highlighted the medical needs of the area.

“Based on the data ... we were able to launch the mobile dental van program and eventually build a permanent facility here in Putnam,” Shaw said.

That dental van program, Across the Smiles, Northeast, was a vital component in Dr. Margaret Smith’s effort to expand dental care in Windham County.

Smith, a dentist who is set to retire later this month after three decades of work, said the new building is a big step forward.

“The van program really took off so much that we knew we’d need a stationary site for more complicated procedures,” she said. “The first day we opened here, we had 32 patients, and the phone is still ringing off the hook. It’s a godsend.”

Original Article