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MICHIGAN CITY — Franciscan Alliance announced Wednesday that it was fulfilling a pledge to the residents of this city at the dedication of a new urgent care center at the old hospital campus here.

"This blessing and open house represents a fulfillment of promises, promises made to the city of Michigan City, promises made to this community, a promise to maintain health care," said Dean Mazzoni, president and CEO of Franciscan Health hospital in Michigan City.

After building a new $243 million campus alongside Interstate 94, Franciscan Alliance vowed that it would continue providing health care services at the old hospital site on the north side of the city at 301 W. Homer St.

So Franciscan has opened an ExpressCare facility in the old emergency room that will be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. A priest blessed the new clinic Wednesday.

"We're excited to be bringing some life back into the facility. It's a needed service," Mazzoni said. "This is a great step forward for us."

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He said that while the urgent care will fill only a small portion of the more-than-400,000-square-foot facility, Franciscan plans to add more services there in the future, including primary care practices and the Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, or PACE, program, which provides care to frail older adults who still live at home.

Franciscan also plans to address some shortages outlined in a recent community needs assessment. Residents replied that access to mental health services, substance abuse treatment and healthy food were the areas where Michigan City is most lacking.

"There are great needs here," Mazzoni said.

He said the hospital intends to collaborate with other community partners to lessen food insecurity, and bring mental health and drug and alcohol treatment to the old hospital site. He said he has talked to state Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, about developing a comprehensive addiction recovery center there as part of new state law to create three such institutions, in northern, central and southern Indiana.

"This is a great way to continue to participate in one of our legacy facilities," Chris DiGiusto, vice president of ambulatory services for Franciscan Alliance, said of the new urgent care. "We sometimes struggle with figuring out what do we do with some of our older facilities. And I'm really excited with all the potential and the efforts that are being made here."

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Health Reporter

Giles is the health reporter for The Times, covering the business of health care as well as consumer and public health. He previously wrote about health for the Lawrence (Kansas) Journal-World. He is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.