City on track to open Southern Oaks Wellness and Learning Campus 

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If there is one word to describe efforts to bring a health and wellness center to south Oklahoma City, it’s synergy.

That’s how Oklahoma City Councilman Pete White described it. When the Ward 4 representative heard Oklahoma City-County Health Department (OCCHD) was hunting locations for its second regional health and wellness center, White suggested city-owned land in the Southern Oaks area.

Specifically, he mentioned a spot adjacent to Southern Oaks Park and Recreation Center near Southern Oaks Library and next to Parmelee Elementary School. The location discussion gave rise to a conception never before explored.

Now, multiple government agencies are collaborating to create a health and wellness center and a community resource offering educational and recreation opportunities.

Through a distinctive partnership with the City of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma City Public Schools, Metropolitan Library System, Oklahoma City Community College (OCCC), University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) and OCCHD, the campus will offer the public everything from community gardens to adult education classes and health clinic services and intramural sports.

“I think it is going to be the wave of the future,” White said.

Last week, officials unveiled architect renderings for Southern Oaks Wellness and Learning Campus. Plans for a fall groundbreaking are in the works.

Additionally, the city is moving forward with plans to extend S. Hudson Avenue to connect with S. Walker Avenue.

The city is on track to approve a contract by the end of July.

The road improvement project is an imperative part of the campus project. School parents and neighbors have advocated for the dead-end street to connect to S. Walker Avenue for decades to ease traffic.

Perfect fit

“We are there to deliver services to everybody in Oklahoma County,” said Stephen Cagle, OCCHD board chairman, during a July 7 public meeting about the project. “Anything that we can, we are going to do.”

Cagle’s statement embodies the local health department’s commitment to unique partnerships to better serve citizens.

Three years ago, OCCHD opened the doors of Northeast Regional Health and Wellness Campus, which provides residents opportunities to connect with health department staff as well as Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, Workforce Oklahoma and OU Physicians. In addition to health clinic space, training rooms, an auditorium, a demonstration kitchen, walking trails, community gardens and a playground comprise the 2600 NE 63rd St. campus.

It was designed for primary care in addition to wellness services and community classes.

OCCHD looks to replicate the city’s southside campus and replace a temporary location in leased space in a shopping center at 2149 SW 59th St. Health officials have said that location lacks room for expansion and for incorporating wellness activities.

With the various partnerships, Southern Oaks Wellness and Learning Campus will stand on its own as the first of its kind in the city and perhaps the nation.

Public officials don’t know of another facility combining health, park and recreation and education services in one. Doug Kupper, Oklahoma City Parks & Recreation director, will present on the concept at the National Recreation and Park Association’s annual conference in October.

The health department will construct and operate the two-story facility and offer services like immunization, preventive care, counseling, family planning, cooking classes and nutrition/family wellness classes.

Plans include creating classroom space, which will be utilized by the two college partners. Specifically, UCO plans to offer classes for aspiring urban educators and OCCC could offer basic adult education.

With next-door neighbor Parmelee, a kindergarten-through-fifth-grade school, classroom space could double for an after-school tutoring program or other school activities.

The facility will be constructed with open space between the health building and the school. In the future, the building could be expanded to connect to the school.

The park department’s partnership includes developing walking trails and building athletic fields. Currently, the park is home to a basketball court, playground and aging community center. The department has secured grant funding for the trails.

Officials view the campus located close to a city bus stop as a one-stop-shop for citizens to become engaged in their local school, utilize the services of the library, get active through the park and stay healthy through various services by OCCHD.

“This is going to happen, and it is going to be first-class,” Cagle said.

OCCHD leaders hold a goal of raiseing health outcomes, and their sights are set on the southside. The campus will serve a majority of residents within the 73139, 73129, 73109, 73149, 73119, 73159 and 73170 ZIP codes.

According to the health department’s 2014 Oklahoma County Wellness Score, the area’s residents hold high rates of heart attack, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, substance abuse, mental health visits and teen pregnancy.

Print headline: Wellness synergy, Unique partnerships forge to create a health, learning and recreation center for south OKC.

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