Last Updated: Jan 8th, 2015 - 07:42:25

New health department aims for a healthier Hopewell
By Ashley McLeod, Staff Writer
Mar 8, 2013, 14:21

photo by Ashley McLeod The new Hopewell Health Department opened Thursday.

Hopewell officials not only celebrated the opening of the new Hopewell Health Department on Thursday, they celebrated its potential to improve the lives of teens in the city.

The department moved from its old location on Appomattox Street into a freshly renovated building, contracted exactly to their needs, at 1501 City Point Road. To celebrate the fresh start, the Health Department held a ribbon cutting ceremony and an open house, where community members were able to tour the facility and mingle with other residents and employees.

The new health department handles all of the same practices as the previous building, and has added a new service as well, the Healthspace Teen Clinic. This service, which has been available at the Petersburg Health Department, offers a safe, trusting place for teens to come and receive help or advice with things such as health education, family planning, contraception, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.

“This is an attempt to combat the teen pregnancy issue in Hopewell,” said Nurse Manager Sharon Williams. “Some of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the state are in Petersburg and Hopewell.”

Tia Sandberg, a health counselor at the department, also expressed concern about the need to educate teens in the area, stating that cases of STIs are very high in the area.

With the teen program, the staff has created a space where teens can feel comfortable coming in and being open about these issues. One way of doing this is having staff members close to their age, such as Liz Winthrop, a nurse practitioner who has been working at the Petersburg location and will now also be in Hopewell. According to Winthrop, the pregnancy rate for the area has dropped almost 25 percent since the program began in Petersburg.

Other services available at the new health department include immunizations and vaccines for children and adults, free STD screenings, assistance with WIC, environmental health issues, and many more.

The new facility offers three exam rooms, as compared to one in the last location. While this will make it easier to serve more clients, Wallicia Gaines, business manager for the Crater Health District expects this facility to be even busier than the last.

“Hopewell is our second busiest health department in the district,” Gaines said. ”Because this building is so much nicer, I believe that even more folks will come to this department for help.”

Dr. Alton Hart Jr., the public health director for the Crater Health District, opened the ceremony with excitement in his words.

“We see this new health department as an opportunity for us to open a new chapter, to have a greater impact,” said Hart.

After being open for many years, in a building which used to serve as a SafeWay, the old Hopewell Health Department was temporarily closed and suffered significant damage following Hurricane Irene in September of 2012. A year before, storm damage had caused the building to be shut down as well.

Wayne Walton, member of the Hopewell City Council, spoke of these issues with the old building, stating that “a lot of people have waited for this new building for a long time.”

The building itself has been in place for as long as anyone attending the event could remember.

“It was more the facility itself than the equipment that was outdated,” Hart said.

The theme for the day, also a tagline for the district health offices, was “Helping Build Healthy Communities,” which was consistently spoken of throughout the ceremony.

State Health Commissioner Cynthia Romero was in attendance and echoed this in her words addressed to the crowd of excited community members.

“You can’t have a healthy community unless you start with a healthy health department,” Romero said.

“To see what we have before us, a first class, clean, bright, modern, technology-based health department to serve this community, is a wonderful thing,” Romero said, commending those who made the move possible for their hard work and dedication.

The location for the new health department will be open Monday through Friday, 8:15am to 5 p.m. daily. This location is easily accessible from the bus line, and is more open and visible to the public eye.

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