Caring for the communityEvery Tuesday for more than two years, the CARE clinic has opened its doors to uninsured, low-income residents of Goodhue County in need of medical services.
By: Danielle Killey, The Republican Eagle
Every Tuesday for more than two years, the CARE clinic has opened its doors to uninsured, low-income residents of Goodhue County in need of medical services.
The free medical and dental clinic fills a gap in the community, and the need is high, said Neela Mollgaard, CARE clinic administrative director.
“I’m humbled every Tuesday with the needs of our individual patients,” she said, and not only medically but financially as well.
Before starting up the clinic in January 2010, organizers did a lot of research and found, among other things, that there are about 5,000 people uninsured in Goodhue County, Mollgaard said.
The county has about 46,200 residents.
Organizers knew medical needs were key and wanted to start there. But they also wanted to expand to have dental care and other aspects of health care.
“We wanted to start small and grow slowly,” Mollgaard said.
Now the clinic treats an average of about 25 patients per night, a number that likely will increase with the new dental clinic that opened in May of 2011, she said. The clinic has treated more than 1,000 patients, but there is even more influence than those statistics show, Mollgaard said.
“We reach entire families.”
On top of exams, tests and medications, the clinic also points people in the direction of needed resources throughout the community, from food shelves to employment services.
But it takes a lot to serve so many people.
When the clinic first opened, there were about 100 volunteers. That number has now doubled. The roughly 200 volunteers rotate, about 25 on duty each Tuesday, and range from dentists, doctors and nurses to administrative staff and resource coordinators.
“Our volunteers keep the doors open,” Mollgaard said. “We are so lucky to have volunteers who are so committed.”
Besides those volunteers, support for the free clinic comes from individual donations, grants, foundations and in-kind donations such as the space they use in the old hospital emergency room. They also work with partners such as Goodhue County Mental Health, Fairview and Mayo, among others, to provide their services.
The clinic provides a value of about $15,000 each Tuesday. In 2011 it delivered about $800,000 to the patients and community in health care, and about $500,000 in 2010, Mollgaard estimated.
The top chronic diagnoses at the clinic are depression, high blood pressure and diabetes, Mollgaard said.
Right now the dental care is only for urgent cases, but she said the clinic hopes to add preventative care as time goes on.
She said many patients who visit the CARE Clinic are in desperate need of medical care but wouldn’t have gone to a doctor, dentist or hospital because of the cost.
Many of the patients are employed, she said. They don’t qualify for state health insurance for one reason or another, though about half are under the federal poverty level, she noted.
“I know we’ve made an impact in our community. I know we’ve made our community healthier,” she said. “I’m so grateful the CARE Clinic is here.”
The clinic, located at 1407 W. Fourth St., is open every Tuesday, and patient registration is from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. It is available to uninsured low income individuals throughout Goodhue County and appointments are given on a first-come, first-served basis.
For more information on the CARE Clinic, call 651-388-1022, email email@example.com or visit www.careclinicrw.com.