New building will help people with developmental disabilities

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COLUMBIA – Woodhaven, an organization that helps people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, will add a new building to expand its health services and staff training. The community held a groundbreaking and ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday with the help of Columbia Chamber of Commerce ambassadors.

The Billy J. Palmer Health and Training Center will be built across from its current location on Hathman Place. Jaime Freidrichs, director of development, said the building will help staff serve the new needs of the community.

“We’ve gone from one full-time registered nurse to four full-time registered nurses because the people who we’ve supported for years are getting older. That brings additional health and medical challenges as well, as issues related to dementia,” she said. “The people looking for services now have a higher degree of medical and behavioral needs, and we’ve grown our staff to accommodate those folks and our community based services as well.”

She said the facility will also offer more space for the staff.

“Right now, three of our four nurses are sharing one large office. It can be a challenge for them to get all of the needed paperwork done and also to have space for quiet consultations,” she said. “So in the new building, each of the nurses will have his or her own office.”

Dennis Palmer, Billy J.’s son, said it was great honor to work on the construction.

“It’s an honor to be a part of this new facility. Two things, for one being named after my father. The second thing, for being able to aid and contribute the health needed for the Woodhaven residents and the on-going training for the staff,” he said.

Palmer said his father worked on Woodhaven’s maintenance team until retirement.

“It’s an honor to have a facility like this being named after your father,” he said.

Freidrichs said the new building is a way for them to be proactive to Columbia’s growing needs. 

“There is a waitlist in Missouri for people with developmental disabilities to receive services. Being moved off of the waiting list generally involves an assessment of level of need, and so people who are getting referred for services are generally people who need a lot of support,” she said.

Since the need is growing, Woodhaven wants to anticipate for the aging people who need help.

“By building this building now, we will be able to continue to grow. It might not mean serving largely greater numbers of people with developmental disabilities. It means serving people who have more significant needs,” she said.

The ceremony also celebrated Woodhaven surpassing its Strengths Capital Campaign goal, exceeding more than $1.9 million. Freidrich said the campaign was a community effort, and a majority of the funds they received were from donations. This is the first of two buildings it plans to build through the campaign.

The facility had a wooden board where it had guests of the ceremony come and sign their names on it. The board will be displayed in the new building. Joe, a person who receives services from Woodhaven, became the first person to sign.

On Saturday, Woodhaven will hold a ground blessing ceremony for the site.