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Editorial: Support for D'Youville

A proposed game-changer for Buffalo’s West Side got a major boost this week when Albany announced a $5 million grant for D’Youville College’s Health Professional Hub, a project that will deliver health care while training students in the professions.

College officials announced the project late last year. The plan is to build a three-story, 50,000-square-foot health care training and workforce development building near the intersection of Connecticut and West streets. The grant was one of just three made this year through the Higher Education Capital Matching Fund, a fact that suggests the confidence officials have in its potential to improve the college’s neighborhood and the region, in general. If it all pans out, it will be money well spent.

As Mayor Byron Brown noted when the grant was announced, some 10,000 health care jobs will need to be filled over the next six years in Western New York, an area that the federal government has designated as suffering from a shortage of health care professionals in primary care, dentistry or mental health care. This program will help to put a dent in that number and while also serving its neighborhood.

In addition to training health professionals, the Hub aims to provide clinical care to residents of the West Side. The need there is great. Residents of the neighborhood suffer from chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes and coronary heart disease at rates higher than the city’s as a whole or the state’s. Those conditions can be debilitating and life-shortening. What is more, left unmanaged, they can drive up health care costs, generally. It benefits everyone to find a way to attack a problem such as this.

D’Youville offers a breadth of health care programs. They include occupational therapy, physician assistant, dietetics, nursing, family nurse practitioner, chiropractic, physical therapy and pharmacy. The hub would be the country’s first clinic to include all of the health professions under one roof while also serving patients.

It would be a comprehensive project, providing a clinic on the ground floor, classrooms and conference space on the second floor, a third-floor “virtual training center” and a two-story, 200-seat amphitheater. Making it even more attractive to the state, the concept would be transferable to other upstate cities, which face similar health issues. In that, it can function as a kind of demonstration project.

The project is expected to cost $20 million which the college hopes to raise from two sources: Donors and private donations would account for $10 million in funding while the other half would come from the state. With this grant, the college has raised at least half of the amount sought from government.

Intriguingly, the college plans to grow as part of this program. With a current enrollment of 3,000 students – including undergraduates and graduates – college officials plan expand that figure by 25 percent. It expects to hire more faculty and staff to support that growth.

With that, the plan will also attack the enrollment and financial problems besetting private colleges in Western New York. It’s encouraging that Albany has recognized the radiating value of this program and has put firmly it on its way.

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