The Wellness Center of Door County is facing the problem of its own success: too many patients and no room to grow in its home at 316 N. Fifth Avenue.
The solution, according to founding Nurse Practitioner Michelle Geiger-Bronsky, is for the Wellness Center to purchase the house to the north of the center and build an addition to connect the two buildings. Architect Dave Valentine is working with the center and has drawn up preliminary plans to build a 500-plus-square-foot addition to connect the buildings, which will double the exam room space, as well as add to staff and volunteer work space.
“For the first time, (the remodeled) space will give us ergonomically appropriate work space for our staff and volunteers,” Geiger-Bronsky said. “The other piece of the addition will be heated storage space. Right now, any liquid products we have, have to be pulled out of storage and put in the clinic, or into my house in Baileys Harbor.”
The Wellness Center has grown a catalogue of 2,500 patients from Door and Kewaunee Counties since the staff opened the doors in 2003; 1,000 of those patients visit the center annually. For whatever reason – be it the economy or lack of jobs with health care subsidies – Geiger-Bronsky said she’s recently noticed a return of a large percentage of patients that she hasn’t seen for quite awhile. The perception in the community that the majority of the center’s patients are adolescents or people under 30 is false, Geiger-Bronsky said, as is the perception that the center is solely for the uninsured.
“Our teenage patients are less than 20 percent of our caseload,” Geiger-Bronsky said. “We serve adolescents, but we also have patients over 70 years old.
“The issue isn’t whether or not patients have insurance, the issue is ‘what’s their deductible and will they meet it for that year?’” Geiger-Bronsky added. “We offer services on a sliding fee scale, and we do bill insurance. A lot of our patients do have insurance and could go to a health care provider accepted by their insurance. However, they prefer to come to us because of the way we take care of them.”
As much as the Wellness Center’s patients may love the caring service, the center will not be able to make the necessary changes and building additions without help from the Door and Kewaunee County communities.
“The estimated cost for the remodel of the building we’re in now, and for the addition, is $220,000 to $250,000,” Geiger-Bronsky said. “The Wellness Center board of directors is now in the process of developing a strategic plan for a fund drive. They are trying to come up with fundraising ideas that are not already done in the community.”
The president of the center’s volunteer board of directors, Jennifer Moeller, said fundraising for the center is ongoing. However, in order to raise the necessary funds for a capital improvement project like the proposed addition, the board of directors will have to turn the flow of creative juices to high and step up their efforts.
“We’re expecting to have more fundraisers in the next year,” Moeller said. “There are some grant funds available for family planning services, so the expansion of the facility could be partially supported by other funding mechanisms” than community fundraisers. “We haven’t nailed down a launch date yet for the capital campaign. There are some contingencies related to the purchase of the next-door building. We are getting close to ownership and expect finalization early next year.”
The funding solution may not come easily for the Wellness Center of Door County. Even though the hurdles are high, Geiger-Bronsky has hope, the same hope in human kindness that enabled her to open the doors of the Wellness Center the first time.
“We need angels out there to step forward who really believe and support that health care is a basic right for everyone.”
The Wellness Center of Door County offers a wide-range of services to its patients. Those services include: family planning, birth control, STD and HIV testing, pelvic and PAP exams, emergency contraception, sexual assualt exams, assistance for women going through menopause, and specially dedicated services and exams for men. For more information on the services the Wellness Center offers, call 920.746.9444 or visit http://www.wellnesscenterofdoorcounty.com.