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Witwer Children’s Therapy looks to expand following pandemic patient growth
Providers seeing more children with behavior impairments since 2020
CEDAR RAPIDS — Following a boom in patient volumes amid the pandemic, a children’s therapy clinic is looking to expand its space.
Witwer Children’s Therapy will double the footprint of its Cedar Rapids facility, adding 3,400 square feet of leased space in an expansion project that’s expected to complete in the spring.
The clinic will grow to take up the entire building at 3245 Williams Parkway SW, adding three new therapy suites that will house a large gym, sensory integration rooms, therapy rooms and other spaces to house services and offices. Officials also are remodeling the lobby and waiting areas.
The expansion project will cost $275,000, which will include the cost of new therapy equipment and furniture, said Mark Willis, UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital physical medicine and rehabilitation director.
Willis also noted there is additional rent for the expanded lease of the property, which will be paid through operating income.
With the expansion, Witwer is expected to hire about four more therapists by early spring to increase access to services, said Julie Gasway, manager at Witwer Children’s Therapy.
“Early access to therapy is what helps kids get better and meet development goals quicker,” Gasway said.
Witwer Children’s Therapy offers physical, occupational and speech therapies, as well as nutrition counseling. Providers work with patients from birth to age 21 for a wide range of needs, such as developmental and learning delays, speech delays and balance issues, among others.
It also operates a clinic in Hiawatha.
Providers were feeling growing pains in the Cedar Rapids clinic as they saw demand for their services increase in the past two years. Officials say Witwer saw a record number of patient visits this year, “exceeding pre-pandemic records by 20 percent.”
“The problem is, with our current space, we don’t have enough rooms to provide more therapy,” Gasway said. “We’ve had to get creative in scheduling, and sometimes we don’t have the rooms to provide the care we would like to provide.”
The expansion project alleviates the space constraint and gives patients a place “to run and jump and do all those fun things,” which Gasway said helps them meet occupational and physical therapy goals.
Witwer had 33,930 unique patient visits in 2018 and 34,600 unique visits in 2019, Willis said.
Though the clinic had limited operations in 2020 — netting only 29,590 patient visits — Witwer is on pace to reach 43,088 unique patient visits this year, Willis said.
Providers have seen more patients diagnosed with behavioral impairments, including more elementary and middle school students than they typically would before COVID-19, Gasway said. Examples of behavior impairments include difficulty playing with friends, difficulty working in a group or difficulty following directions.
Gasway said she believes steps to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus — including virtual classrooms and social distancing — meant children were more isolated and may have inadvertently resulted in an escalation of these diagnoses.
“COVID-19 has been really hard on children,” Gasway said.
St. Luke’s Foundation raised $275,000 in funding for the project through a Transamerica grant as well as donations from the Wayne and Nan Kocourek Foundation and other private donors.
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