Peoria County breaks ground on a new health and human services building

After more than 70 years, the Peoria City/County Health Department has a new building on the horizon. The new campus will stand on the same site on Sheridan Road and will include more agencies and organizations.

On Tuesday, the county officially broke ground on the future Peoria County Health and Human Services Campus. Sharon Williams, chairwoman of the Peoria County Board of Health, said the first sod was several years in the making.

“Today, it’s probably about a year’s worth of work analyzing data and looking at different places,” Williams said. “And we looked at maybe 30 different places before we decided it should stay where it was.”

Williams said the location at 2116 N. Sheridan Road provides the greatest convenience for people who frequently use county health services. According to her, these are people in zip codes 61603, 61604 and 61605. The current building is also on an easily accessible bus route.

Another advantage of the new building is the greater variety of services. The new health campus, costing more than $19 million, will include the Peoria County medical examiner’s office, the regional office of education and the department of sustainability and resource conservation – in addition to the health department. Williams said there are benefits for every organization involved.

“The regional office of education was very excited about it because they actually do a lot of work with the health department,” Williams said. “So bringing these two groups together is really, I think, important.”

Regional Superintendent Elizabeth Crider agreed, saying health and education are closely linked.

“Why regional education management?” Crider asked. “Because a healthy … child and family show up to school ready to learn, and teachers, educators and administrators can get their jobs done.”

Williams said the new building will also provide some needed changes for the current office of Coroner Jamie Harwood.

“The building just wasn’t designed to be a courthouse,” she said. “So what we’re designing for him is a modern judicial office, so he’ll be able to serve better.”

Harwood said he’s also excited about the proximity to other community agencies.

“I think it’s just going to elevate what we’re doing,” he said. “When we talk about evidence-based best practices, I think that’s really going to help us elevate everything that we do from a forensic standpoint.”

One of the new features is an additional autopsy room and a place for law enforcement to be present during autopsies. Harwood said this will allow law enforcement to work collaboratively with forensic pathologists.

“It will give them the opportunity to see through a glass,” Harwood said. “With the communication between the glass so you can see what’s going on and talk to the doctor. So that’s huge.”

Although the new building will house more employees and organizations, Williams said it will actually be smaller.
“It will be two stories,” she said. “But it will be significantly smaller.”

The final design is still a work in progress. The county is working with Farnsworth Group, River City Construction and GIVSCO Construction. Williams said he has a finished design, but it’s over the planned $19 million budget. The funding comes from unspent America’s Rescue Plan dollars and money the county is already saving to replace the roof of the current health department building.

Peoria City/County Public Health Administrator Monica Hendrickson is also excited to have a better facility for her patients, staff and community partners.

“It’s just a lot of our partnerships,” she said. “But only now are we able to make it closer together.”

For example, Hendrickson said the health department regularly coordinates with the office on mental health education, emergency preparedness and sexually transmitted infection education, and also works with the medical examiner’s office on death certificates and records.

During construction, Hendrickson said the health department will be “decentralized,” with employees in offices throughout the county.

“We have spaces that we lease as well as partnerships that we rely on to really cover the whole gamut,” she said. “We’re very excited about it.”

Williams said the final design process should be done sometime in the next few weeks. It expects construction to begin in late 2022/early 2023 and be completed by late 2023.

For more information on where to get services from the health department during construction, you can visit the health department’s website here.

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