Letter to the Editor: Westerly has Golden Opportunity with Tower St. Proposal

October 20, 2023

The following is a Letter to the Editor of the Westerly Sun. It was submitted by Jean Gagnier on October 20, 2023.

The Westerly Town Council has an opportunity before it, a proposed $30 million community, education and medical facility. The Tower Street proposal is a public-private collaboration that could provide much-needed services for our citizens. The medical aspect are services that include primary care, dental, behavioral health, and other supportive services. Having firsthand experience as a patient since 1990 I can attest that Wood River Health is a premier provider of much-needed services for our entire community and does so regardless of ability to pay.

Wood River provides a continuum of care for individuals and families throughout their lives. In an age where family practice physicians and dental services are increasingly hard to come by. Wood River Health delivers these services at affordable rates for our entire community. In the last few years Wood River Health opened an office in Westerly as a sizable number of their patients are from our town; the result is they have quickly outgrown this space.

The need for dental services is particularly acute for individuals and families in the RIte Smiles Medicaid program. Wood River accepts individuals covered by Medicaid and is the only dental provider to do so in Westerly. An expanded facility would allow Westerly residents to receive dental treatment closer to home.

Behavioral health services are offered at the Hope Valley location in the form of counselors who are part of a continuum of care team along with medical and dental professionals. Currently we find Westerly’s children and adults impacted with higher rates of anxiety and mental illness, so the ability to hand off a patient in the same facility on the same day from medical to behavioral health professionals can be effective and improving the quality of life for our neighbors and friends.

Having seen the proposal for the Tower Street Community Center on multiple occasions and listening to our Town Council it would seem some adjustments or tweaks to the proposal could be in order, but our council should ensure that this is an opportunity that is not missed. Councilors, please set an example by working together. The goal is to provide much-needed services for our community for decades to come.

Jean Gagnier