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One of Georgia's biggest managed care organizations is backing the development of a 374-acre health care campus in Walker County scheduled to open next year with health care, counseling, housing and work opportunities for veterans, children and families.

Peach State Health Plan will donate $25,000 to build an outdoor sports and recreation pavilion at the Healthy Foundations Community Resource Village, which is being planned on farmland along Burnt Mill Road near Lafayette.

The site was purchased last August after an earlier effort to build a 200-acre campus in Catoosa County was dropped in 2019 when neighbors objected to the project. Organizers of the new village in Walker County plan to open a health and counseling clinic within the next year and a 300-bed veterans village by the fall of 2022.

At its new location, the project has faced some neighborhood questions, but it is being supported by Walker County Commission Chairman Shannon Whitfield, state Sen. Jeff Mullis and others. Construction is expected to begin soon.

Ultimately, the village will be designed to include an equestrian center, an artisan village, a center for families and even a town center along with the health care clinics, medical offices and housing facilities for up to 1,200 people and a staff of more than 250 employees.

"Healthy Foundations is a social transformation village that will encompass health, housing, workforce and education," said DeLaine Hunter, CEO of the North Georgia Healthcare Center in Ringgold who has been working for nearly a decade on the project. "Our primary goal is to uplift struggling individuals and families from the shadows of crisis by meeting their health and social needs in our own community."

Wade Rakes, chief executive of Peach State Health Plan, said his company is partnering with Healthy Foundations village because of the need for the facility and its potential to set an example for a more comprehensive treatment approach in rural parts of Georgia.

"First and foremost, in Northwest Georgia there has been a lack of a centralized facility capable of offering affordable behavioral health services to the public, and we want to help fill that gap," Rakes said. "The integrated heath care model is one we've seen work elsewhere in the state and we're happy to see that come to this part of the state. The size and the scale of this, I think, is going to be a model that we hope can be applied to other parts of Georgia."

The grant from Peach State Health Plan is part of the ongoing fundraising effort by the nonprofit group developing what organizers call "a collective integrated health care campus." Architects are still developing specific plans and Hunter said the developers are still assessing utility needs for the project, which will be built by T.U. Parks Construction. Hunter estimates the Healthy Foundations village when fully developed will be a $150 million complex with up to 1,500 people on the site at one time.

Campus partners include the City of Refuge Atlanta, House of Cherith, the Georgia Division of Family and Children's Services and others.

"We want people to be able to come to one campus and get everything that they need and to stay as long as they need in order to really complete that journey to restoration," said Terry Tucker, the president of the Healthy Foundations Initiative who previously served as chief strategy officer at the City of Refuge in Atlanta.

The Healthy Foundations Community Resources Village will include a health care and counseling center and an independent living area with supportive services, as well as workforce and youth development opportunities.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6340.

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