From the day that Comprehensive Community Action opened the Everett C. Wilcox Family Health Center in 2005, CCAP executive Director Joanne McGunagle believed they would be squeezed for space.
She was right, and now with the acquisition of a nearby building that housed campaign headquarters for Frank Picozzi during his successful run for mayor of Warwick, she aims to transform the center into strictly dental offices and use the new space to all other medical services.
In her search for additional space, McGunagle turned to Paul Salera, executive director of Westbay Community Action. Westbay administrative offices are adjacent to Wilcox, and with consolidation of most of Westbay operations on Jefferson Boulevard in what was formerly a portion of the Citizen Bank call center, she hoped there might be space.
Salera come up with something even better. He knew the adjoining 5,000-square-foot building was for sale. Earlier this month, CCAP closed on the property for $350,000.
“It’s a busy, busy place,” McGunagle said of Wilcox. She said the center has a caseload of 5,800 patients of which 2,500 are dental patients.
McGunagle named dental services as most in demand, placing it above rental and food assistance. She noted that when the pandemic hit, dentists closed with the exception of emergency procedures. Now that they have reopened, they are trying to make up for lost time. In addition, many people don’t have insurance coverage, so they are turning to CCAP for help.
With school buildings closed last year, CCAP had to sideline its Molar Express providing dental services to students, which has further increased the demand.
“We have more than 1,000 [people waiting for dental appointments] right now,” McGunagle said.
She said the newly acquired building would be gutted and she is exploring the feasibility of adding a second floor. CCAP will be advertising a RFP, request for proposals, for an architect to work on the plans. McGunagle said she expects the proposal would require planning and zoning board approvals.
She estimated the cost of renovating the building at $1.5 million to $2 million and that the project could take a year or longer depending on the availability of materials and contractors.
McGunagle said the building is presently setup for several tenants. The only tenant in the building at this point is a martial arts studio. McGunagle said she is working to find a new location for the studio.
Had CCAP considered other locations for the center?
“Warwick has embraced this health center,” she said. Other locations were never a serious consideration because Wilcox is centrally located.
“It is easy to get to. It’s been a great home for us,” McGunagle said. Now with additional space, the clinic will gain space and have the opportunity to serve even more people.