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RACINE, WI — Citing a need to get the Racine Community Health Center back on track after a slow start, community officials gathered Friday to announce a new $1 million pledge to get the health center going.

Officials say Ascension’s $1 million pledge will be paid out $200,000 per year over five years, and is the first private sector contribution to the Racine Community Health Center, and is considered by city officials to be a major step forward in ensuring the center will open in the summer of 2020.

Paired with $50,000 contributions each from the City of Racine, Racine County, and Gateway Technical College, the center has raised $350,000, or more than 50 percent, of the $650,000 goal to open.

The center, which will be located inside Julian Thomas school just west of Downtown, was to be designated as a Federally Qualified Health Center. Due to an unexpectedly low number of initial applications, city health officials said the center did not meet the threshold to qualify this year. Local officials say the city remains committed to the center and is confident that moving forward with its opening could improve the chances of receiving the designation later in 2020, as more federal funding becomes available.

“I am extremely grateful to Ascension Wisconsin for their commitment to the health of our community. Their dedication over the last 18 months in working with our team to bring this center to life will benefit our residents for years to come. Their generosity puts us in a great position to be able to improve access to healthcare for City and County residents,” Racine Mayor Cory Mason said in a statement. “As a community, we know low income and under-served populations in the city and county have faced major challenges in accessing health care. With this support from Ascension Wisconsin, we are one step closer to opening the Racine Community Health Center at Julian Thomas Elementary School. This pledge will be a catalyst to create more access to affordable, high-quality health care, close health care disparity gaps, and offer healthier lifestyle options for our residents.”

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