ESTU College of Nursing awarded $1M to build new Day Center

East Tennessee State University’s College of Nursing Family Practice Network has received a $1 million federal grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration to construct a new building to house its Johnson City Day Center.

The Day Center, located at 202 W. Fairview Ave., provides health care and other services to the homeless population in the region. The College of Nursing has been serving homeless individuals for more than 25 years and has done so at the Day Center facility since 2005.

“On a typical day, the Day Center serves upward of 60 clients, with resources that are adequate to serve about half that,” said Dr. Wendy Nehring, dean of the ETSU College of Nursing. “The building is too small, which forces us to have to limit our offerings each day. The building is also plagued with structural issues. Our shower and two washing machines share a single, outdated water line, meaning we can’t allow simultaneous use of these services.”

The new, 4,365 square-foot facility, to be located on the same property as the existing Day Center, will feature updated resources and medical equipment, allowing for the expansion of medical, behavioral and social health services for the homeless.

“We are aiming to take a holistic approach to improving the lives of the homeless population of our region,” said Dr. Wilsie Bishop, ETSU’s chief operating officer and vice president for Health Affairs. “We will increase our level of services by providing health care and social services five days a week, which will allow for onsite medical testing and improving the basic needs of these individuals – everything from laundry and shower facilities to recovery programs and life skills training.”

ETSU President Dr. Brian Noland credited the City of Johnson City and Mountain States Health Alliance for teaming with the university to provide services for the homeless.

“None of this would be possible if not for the partnerships that have sustained this initiative for the past quarter-century,” he said. “It is through partnerships with entities like the City of Johnson City and Mountain States Health Alliance that we are able to provide these essential services – everything from medical care to a hot shower – to one of the most underserved populations in the area.”

In 2014, the Day Center recorded more than 11,000 visits, including 326 primary care appointments and 280 mental health appointments.

Through the project, ETSU officials expect to see a 150 percent increase in the number of individuals who are served by the Day Center, with availability of individual patient resources increasing by more than 400 percent.

Construction on the new facility will begin once all the required approvals are garnered for the project. The current facility will remain open during this time the new center is being built on the property.