ESSEX - A new option is available for local residents of all ages in need of a place to exercise.
The new Smith House Wellness Center opened its doors Aug. 7 on Lake Shore Road in Essex, offering people throughout the region a new facility for physical therapy, fitness, and other medical treatment.
The previous owners of the building, Frank and Allison Hain, were operating it as a fitness center in 2007 when they offered to sell it to the Smith House. With grants from USDA Rural Development and the JC Kellogg Foundation, Smith House was able to purchase the building in October 2008.
"This provided the Smith House with a unique opportunity to expand physical therapy services and begin a wellness program," said Mark Bonfey, Vice Chair of the Smith House's Board of Directors.
Smith House Executive Director Robin Pierce thanked financial supporters and representatives at all levels of of government, many of whom attended a ribbon cutting ceremony marking the building's opening.
"We believe that wellness is about the whole person," said Pierce, "so... we started a wellness program where people can access our equipment and services, such as nutritional counseling and personal help with their training."
The center remains open 24 hours a day, seven days a week to physical therapy patients, who may use electronic keycards to access the equipment there independently if cleared by a physician to do so.
Mark Hummel, who serves as the physical therapy provider for the Smith House, will continue to provide services at the wellness center on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. He said the new facilities will provide more options for patients as they can now choose from varying levels of supervision.
The facility will also function as a fitness center for non-patients, who can also use the equipment there at any time for a modest monthly fee.
"It's an exercise center, but with education," Hummel said. "I don't think a lot of places do that."
In relocating their physical therapy services to the new wellness center, the Smith House effectively triples their space for that line of treatment. Pierce said the center can accommodate up to 20 people at any given time. "This building has been remodeled so we can provide all the services we provide in Willsboro," said Pierce, noting that the facility could is equipped to deal with more acute medical situations if need be.
Pierce said that the Smith House hopes to add more services at the site in the future, such as mental health counseling, massage therapy, or even yoga.
The Hains were among those present at the building's grand opening. Frank said the center is being utilized just as they hoped it would.
"Physical therapy is such a necessity for people," he said. "The Smith House has done such a good job organizing this. We wanted them to have it because they serve the community so well."
Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward also made an appearance, and praised the Smith House for its continuing expansion of services.
If government is going to make the effort of contributing to health care costs, Sayward said, there would have to be more focus on preventative care, thereby preventing more costly treatment for acute problems.
"This building today is a giant step forward in the commitment to do just that," she said.