Havre Daily News
Bullhook Clinic in Havre will open its doors on Dec.19.
The new Hill County health clinic will see all categories of patients - those with Medicare, with Medicaid, without insurance and with insurance. A co-payment for services will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Patients may also use payment plans to cover costs.
Primary care, health and wellness exams for infants through seniors, Montana Department of Transportation exams, sports physicals, and assistance with management of chronic illnesses like diabetes and high blood pressure will be offered at the clinic. Laboratory services and diagnostic images will be provided in collaboration with Northern Montana Hospital.
“Even though there are great services in the community, sometimes it's hard to access them,” said Cindy Smith, executive director of Bullhook Clinic and director of nursing for the Hill County Health Department.
Smith said she wants to make it easier for residents to get that help and “strengthen what's already here and fill some gaps.” If the clinic can't fulfill a patient's need, it will refer that person to someone who can.
“Just so they know someone cares,” Smith added.
Vouchers for office visits, blood work, prescriptions and dentistry will be available for patients on a case-by-case basis. The clinic recently received a donation of $7,500 from a local donor, who wants to remain anonymous, for additional vouchers.
The clinic is located in the Hill County Courthouse Annex building on Fourth Avenue. The building will also house the county health department, Family Plannning and WIC. Family Planning will move from the courthouse basement to the clinic building after the first of the year.
A few changes have been made to the building, including converting office space into three exam rooms, two for the clinic and one for Family Planning.
Grant money was used to purchase equipment, and some equipment was donated by the hospital. Smith said that as the client base grows, the clinic will get more supplies.
Smith said the clinic will help teach patients to care for themselves.
“We want to empower people,” Bullhook Clinic's family nurse practitioner, Connie White, said Tuesday.
What the clinic workers call “family folders” will be handed out to patients to aid them in keeping track of everything from vehicle titles to heating bills to immunization records. The clinic's caseworkers will go through paperwork with patients.
“Caseworkers will help step by step if they need to,” Smith said.
The clinic hired two case managers, one to be stationed at the clinic and one at the hospital, to help patients with paperwork and referring clients to other services such as mental health help and dentistry. The clinic has 10 other new employees, including a clinical nurse, an operations manager, a data analyst and the nurse practitioner.
White will be available at the clinic during its hours of Monday and Wednesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. A nurse practitioner is a registered nurse with advanced academic and clinical experience that enables him or her to diagnose and manage most common and many chronic illnesses and prescribe medications.
As a family nurse practitioner, White can see patients of all ages but cannot administer prenatal care or perform surgeries. White graduated from Montana State University-Bozeman in May with a master's degree in nursing and is American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Board certified. She has worked at Family Planning in Lewistown since September and will continue to work there as well as at the clinic.
The process of getting funding for the clinic took about three years. The clinic was made possible by a $1.7 million, two-year renewable grant the county received from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration in September.
To get the grant, the county had to first be designated a medically underserved area by HRSA, which it was in July after submitting a special application through Gov. Brian Schweitzer's office. It had been denied the designation four times over two years. The county also had the support of U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who held up political appointments as leverage for the designation.
“It took the whole community to get this,” Smith said.
The clinic will host a “brown bag” event on Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. At the event, over-the-counter and prescription medications will be evaluated by a pharmacy intern doing a rotation at the clinic, to identify and solve possible interactions and see if drugs are outdated or unnecessary.
The clinic will open on Dec. 19. The Health Department and clinic will co-host an open house on Dec. 22 from 1 to 6 p.m. There will be refreshments and door prizes.