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COLUMBUS — The first few scoops of dirt on a multimillion-dollar project aimed at bettering the health of the community were moved during a groundbreaking ceremony for a wellness center.

Representatives from Columbus Community Hospital held the ceremony Wednesday at the site of the new Columbus Wellness Center, 3912 38th St., just east of the hospital.

The project, which will cost about $21 million to construct and is funded by the hospital, will integrate general wellness and rehabilitation services in one location, as well as a child care and childhood development facility offered through Central Nebraska Community Services.

“Our hope is that we can really leverage this opportunity to engage not only our community, but our physicians and drive people to our health and wellness center where they can be educated, where they can get into programs and services, and hopefully improve the wellness of our community,” said Mike Hansen, president of CCH.

The hospital will oversee rehabilitation services including outpatient physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy that will move from the hospital to the wellness center. General wellness will be provided by the Columbus Family YMCA, which will be leasing space at the center for a new facility.

Corey Briggs, director of the YMCA, said the move to the wellness center will be an upgrade from the current location at 2200 28th Ave.

“We knew our facility was lacking. We knew parking and the swimming pool was a problem,” Briggs said.

Both programs, along with the child care and childhood development services that will also lease space, will occupy the 85,700-square-foot facility. The YMCA takes up about 62,000 square feet and will be able to offer services it currently can't, such as additional programs, new classes and a functional swimming pool, Briggs said.

Hansen said the YMCA is an important component to the center.

“We wanted a full continuum of wellness and we have to have that general wellness portion," he said. "That really isn’t a part of our core services as a hospital. The Y was a natural provider of those services for us to work with. We feel like together we can make each other better and, not only provide a quality facility, but quality programs and services for the people here in Columbus."

It is expected to take about 18 months for the project to be complete with a target date for completion in September 2015. The architect on the project is TSP and the general contractor is Journey Construction Professionals, both of Sioux Falls, S.D. Cargill in Columbus and Schuyler donated $100,000 to the project.

The wellness center is focused on creating a healthier population in Columbus through prevention, said Dr. Jeffrey Gotschall, chairman of the Columbus Community Hospital Board of Directors.

“When we look at what the emerging models of health care are in having a higher-quality, lower-cost and greater-value health care, wellness and preventative care certainly come to the top,” he said.

Gotschall said the center will help not only treat patients, but teach them to make healthier lifestyle choices that lower health care costs.

Hansen said education will play an important role in the wellness center, whether that involves teaching patients about exercise and a healthy diet or managing their disease.

“We already know with evidence-based research, if people are healthier that they are going to be a better worker and be less prone to injury and sick less. Long-term, hopefully that will impact the overall health care in our community,” Hansen said.

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