As they celebrate the organization’s 50th anniversary, representatives of the North Country Family Health Center have ample reason to be proud of their work and accomplishments.

The novel coronavirus pandemic challenged the group as few events ever have. But officials and staff members took advantage of the many years they’ve spent increasing their clients’ access to telemedicine, just like numerous other health care facilities. In July, the NCFHC marked a decade of expanding this service — a sure sign of forward thinking.

The NCFHC recently announced plans to expand. Despite the obstacles it has confronted, the organization is moving forward in positive ways.

“The project will add 1,700 square feet to the main campus building, expanding its Family Practice Primary Care Department. Two exam rooms will become negative pressure rooms to be used for patients with COVID-19 symptoms and for aerosolized procedures such as nebulizer treatments. Part of the addition, 360 square feet at the northwest end of the building, will accommodate a growing clinical support workforce and could be converted into other patient service areas in the future, depending on demand. The project will also modify 900 existing square feet to connect the current structure to the new structure, including some minor renovations of clinical space including a new expanded lab area,” according to a story published Sunday by the Watertown Daily Times. “With the Health Resources and Services Administration’s award to the North Country Family Health Center in the amount of $639,843, the center will put it toward supporting the expansion and renovation work at the main campus, 238 Arsenal St.; the project budget, including construction costs, fees and equipment, totals nearly $1.2 million. The remaining $555,899 will come from the health center’s secured non-federal funds. Since the pandemic began, the health center began offering COVID-19 rapid PCR testing to anyone in the community in an outside, drive-up format. The expansion project will allow the center to have additional dedicated lab space for COVID-19 testing machines given the very limited lab space in the current floor plan. The creation of a dedicated and covered outdoor COVID-19 testing area for two cars will protect the health center’s staff from weather.”

This is a significant advancement for the NCFHC.

The announcement of this project comes at a time when the organization is lauding its five decades of service in our communities.

“The expansion is wonderful for patients and also for our staff because demand is so high — which is wonderful that we have the providers, and we are able to see patients — but right now we’re working in pretty tight quarters,” April Fallon, marketing and community relations director for the NCFHC, said in the article. “So this will allow for great work space and better exam room space for the patients.

“Having a 50th anniversary is pretty darn amazing,” she added, according to the story. “We’re very proud that we have a community health center here in Watertown and that we’ve been able to survive for the 50 years — not only survive but really thrive and expand in the services that we’re able to provide to the community.”

The NCFHC has pursued a thoughtful path to ensure Northern New York residents have access to excellent medical, dental and mental health services. This new project is another example of the prudent decisions that have helped the organization enhance its value in this region.

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