DESTIN — The Rehabilitation Institute of Northwest Florida is expanding its facility to accommodate more patients and better serve thecommunity.

The institute on Wednesday hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for the expansion, which will include an outdoor therapy garden, an expansion of the physical therapy gym and 10 inpatient rooms, with four being equipped for obese patients.

“The additional bedrooms will help accommodate more patients in this area,” said Rebecca Jones, the rehab center's program director. “The enhancements to the facility will benefit our rehab patients and we won’t have to turn patients away due to the lack of rooms.”

When the expansion is completed, the institute will have 30 patient rooms. There also are plans to hire about 15 more employees.

“We are going to able to hire more skilled medical workers, like nurses and therapists,” Jones said.

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The Rehabilitation Institute started in 1996 in the Fort Walton Beach Medical Center and moved to its current home at 996 Airport Road in 2011. The center is the area's only inpatient acute rehabilitation facility and also is a Level II trauma center.

“We primarily rehab stroke and traumatic injury patients or other illnesses and diseases that might limit mobility,” said Todd Jackson, Fort Walton Beach Medical Center’s chief operating officer.

Jackson said the goal is to have the expansion completed by January.

Destin Area Chamber of Commerce President Shane Moody said at the groundbreaking ceremony that the expansion will be a boost for the economy and the community.

“The expansion is great all around. People who are moving to Destin will see that we have high-end quality of health care,” Moody said. "They will feel at ease and comfortable to live here."