RACINE – The Wisconsin Legislature is called into a Special Session next Tuesday that includes expanding the BadgerCare health program and funding more than 50 initiatives around the state, including $53 million for a permanent Racine Community Health Center.
Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, signed an executive order earlier this week introducing the Special Session legislation. However, Republican leaders, who control both houses of the Legislature, have indicated that they oppose the governor’s plans.
City of Racine officials are hoping health care funding initiative survives. The Racine Community Health Center (RCHC) – a partnership that includes the city, Racine Unified School District, Racine County, Gateway Technical College and Ascension Healthcare – is on track to open later this summer in the garden level of Julian Thomas Elementary School, 930 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
The space at Julian Thomas Elementary is meant to be a temporary home for the RCHC. Planning is already under way to construct a new, much larger and more comprehensive health care facility in an empty city block just north of the school. This new building would include 30,000 square feet for a permanent home for the RCHC, as well as an additional 27,000 square feet for a revitalized community center to replace the current aging building on King Drive. The city’s 2021 budget included planning and construction funds for this new facility, with the goal of construction occurring in 2022.
“The Governor’s commitment to fully fund the project, should the legislation pass, would catalyze and expedite this project, and would represent an incredible step forward in providing high quality, affordable access to health care for thousands of Racine’s residents,” according to a city statement issued Friday.
“I want to thank the Governor prioritizing the health of Racine’s residents. His commitment to the City of Racine could have a significant impact on addressing disparities and providing healthcare access to the City’s most vulnerable populations. Because of the partnerships we have formed locally, and with the support of Governor Evers, should this legislation pass, this project could get underway this year,” Mayor Cory Mason said in a news release.
“The space at Julian Thomas was always meant to be temporary home for the RCHC. But we always envisioned it being located in the Lincoln-King neighborhood, which is our most diverse, but also most economically challenged neighborhood. Funds to enable the swift planning and construction of this health center, along with a modern community center, all still connected to Julian Thomas Elementary School, would be a game changer for the Lincoln King neighborhood and for Racine’s residents. I want to sincerely thank all our partners, including the Governor, as we continue the work to make this shared vision a reality.”
Others issuing statements of support Friday were Dr. Eric Gallien, RUSD superintendent; Dr. Bryan Albrecht, Gateway Technical College president and CEO; and Rep. Greta Neubauer, D-Racine, whose district includes the Lincoln-King Neighborhood.