During this difficult time for all of us, it is incredibly rewarding to watch the compassion within the human spirit.

It is reflected daily in our community and at HealthNet of Rock County, the county’s only free and charitable clinic. Coming through this pandemic has only convinced us that our services are needed more than ever. When the worst of this pandemic is over, our community will need to recover—and we believe HealthNet of Rock County is a part of that formula for recovery.

We can only do this effectively with a consolidated facility with more dental chairs, clinical rooms and additional space for mental health programming. We are actively looking for a space that is 15,000 square feet, is centrally located for our patients, is located on a bus line, and provides a safe and comforting atmosphere for care.

Rock County was on stable footing in 2019. The county’s unemployment rate was at just 3.4%. Janesville/Beloit was ranked 25th in the country for job creation and economic growth. HealthNet of Rock County had plans to consolidate and expand. We had planned to add a sliding fee scale women’s clinic, more dental chairs to accommodate individuals with developmental disabilities and addiction treatment services that would help low-income clients.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic hindered our efforts. Our county’s unemployment rate has grown by 40%, and many have lost access to health insurance.

Instead of being disheartened, it reinvigorated our staff and volunteers to provide services to those without health care. With support from our community partners, we have pivoted from our original building plan to a building search. We have kept our doors open while offering COVID-19 testing to anyone who is uninsured. Our managers have recruited new providers to step in to treat new patients, and in the coming months, we are ready to serve as a vaccine provider for those who are uninsured.

HealthNet of Rock County has always been a grassroots, community-driven effort. We welcome community input. HealthNet believes it is here to respond to the needs of the community, not assume that we are meeting those needs. We are in the process of searching for a new property, and your community voice plays a role in how we can take care of people and get them back to work. It is only through this that Rock County will see economic recovery.

Ian Hedges is the chief executive officer for HealthNet of Rock County.

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