Sen. Stabenow helps break ground for Cass clinic

Published 9:07 pm Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The 30,000-square-foot, $6.4 million facility should be ready in October 2014.

The 30,000-square-foot, $6.4 million facility should be ready in October 2014.

CASSOPOLIS — When it comes to economic impact, Cassopolis Family Clinic packs a wallop.

More than 125 people waited in 85-degree heat for Tuesday’s groundbreaking of a $6.4 million facility which will increase patient capacity 50 percent, adde 13 new jobs to the more than 50 already employed and feel like $8 million due to construction jobs, materials and equipment expenditures and spin-off employment.

When the 30,000-square-foot facility opens in October 2014, the new Cassopolis Family Clinic at 261 M-62, corner of M-62 and Don Horne Park Drive, will have been paid for $4.4 million, or 65 percent, by federal funds.

The building U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., helped break ground for will include medical and procedure rooms, dental services, a pharmacy, a laboratory and a community room in place of the outdated, undersized 1960 facility at 109 School St.

Stabenow, born in Gladwin and raised in Clare, said, “Today’s groundbreaking is welcome news for families in Cassopolis and across Cass County. For almost 50 years, Family Clinic has served as the family doctor for so many residents in need of basic medical care. I am pleased the brand-new clinic will provide physical, mental and dental health services to thousands of additional patients for years to come. I can’t wait to come back and see it when you guys get done. When you think about lives already touched by the important work done here, everyone involved should be very proud, caring for 7,500 primary care patients annually and 1,200 maternity care women and babies” at two locations, Cassopolis and Niles.

“I’m really pleased to hear you’re opening a health center at the high school, which is very important,” Stabenow said. “There will be three new doctors, 13 jobs created, but, most importantly, young people will be able to get health care on-site at school. I know you know this, but you have a group of health care visionaries here in the community. I’m so glad we’ve been able to help support your vision. Let me say one other thing: Health care is not a frill. I shouldn’t have to say that, but with all the debate going on, this is a necessity. We all need access to health care. We can either do it the right way, like here through preventive care, or all of us together pay for it in a much more expensive way — emergency rooms, disability and loss of life. Way to go!”

“I’m not sure if there was a similar gathering of dignitaries, community leaders and residents in 1959, when our present building was started,” Executive Director Mary Middleton said, “but I believe that must have been a celebration as well. A group of local businessmen (pharmacists Sam Hansen and George Gohn, Frank Woods, Tom McCauslin and Leo “Mack” Cropsey) recognized the need to build a medical building and recruit family physicians to live and work in Cassopolis. It was 56 years ago they began planning and raising money for facilities so medical care could be delivered right here in Cassopolis that was responsive to the needs of this community. In essence, community leaders were modeling what officially became the Community Health Center program in 1964. Dr. Aaron Warren and Dr. Lowell Smith were this community’s first physicians.”

Dr. Smith became an oncologist, inspired to a specialty care career by his mother’s cancer.

“Dr. Warren stayed in this community, spending 32 years of his life providing family medicine,” Middleton said. “He cared for patients at the office, at the Medical Care Facility, at the Cass County Jail and served as county medical examiner. He started the first 24-hour physicians staffing model at Pawating Hospital in Niles in the 1970s and served as chief of staff. He recruited many physicians,” including Dr. Neil See.

“Dr. Warren touched the lives of thousands of people,” she said, “and he made this community a better place. The Community Health Center program requires federally-funded Health Centers to provide care to the entire community, regardless of insurance coverage and ability to pay. Cass Family Clinic takes care of everyone. People without health insurance may apply for nominal fees based on family size and income. This makes health care affordable for everyone. It’s probably safe to say Dr. Warren took care of a lot of people who couldn’t pay their bill, even when the cost of an office visit was a couple of bucks. We’d have to ask Mrs. Warren if he ever brought home a chicken as payment.

“What we do know is that somewhere up in heaven there’s a group of businessmen, including Dr. Warren, looking down at us this very moment. I think they’d be very pleased as we stick shovels in the ground and turn dirt for a medical building to serve the next generations of our community and keep their dream for locally-directed health care alive.”

Paw Paw Sub-Area Office Team Leader Lisa Epple represented the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development.

“This is an excellent example of how USDA Rural Development is working with partner agencies to improve access to health care for Michigan residents,” Epple said of providing a $1.2-million community facility direct loan combined with a $4.4 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Skip Dyes, chairman of the Board of Commissioners, Wendy Walker-Dyes and Leonard and Sylvia Kanczuzewski are co-chairing a $1 million local fundraising campaign for the remainder.

Hooker DeJong of Muskegon is architect, represented by David Layman, with Gary Barton of The Barton Group in Lawton as owners representative until the contractor is selected.

Dignitaries included state Reps. Matt Lori of Constantine and Dave Pagel of Berrien Springs, the Cass County Board of Commissioners, Judge Susan Dobrich, Prosecutor Victor Fitz, Niles Mayor Michael McCauslin and board members George Brossman, Karen Current, Marsha Ellis, Laurie Fleming, Leon Gilliam, Adrienne Glover, Tracy Hertsel, David O’Connor, Shirley Lee and Jeraldine Weston.