Havre Daily News
In a few months, county residents who can't find or pay for health service will have a place to go - the Bullhook Clinic.
Hill County Commission chair Kathy Bessette confirmed Monday that the county will open a clinic at the Hill County Courthouse Annex. It will be paid for with a $1.7 million, two-year renewable grant the county received last week.
Cindy Smith, Hill County Health Department director, said Monday she has the go-ahead to use the annex and hopes to have the doors open by the end of next month. Among her tasks will be filling about 10 new positions and updating the annex building so part of it can be used for health exam rooms, while the rest can still be used for offices.
The occupants of the Hill County Courthouse basement, including the health department, the sanitarian/planner, Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants and Children, and family planning, will all be moved to the annex.
Smith described several services the clinic might provide. Nurses will be available for health exams, and the clinic will help people access and apply to existing health programs.
A Northern Montana Hospital patient who receives a prescription from a doctor might not be able to pay for the medication. In that case, the person could visit a Bullhook Clinic caseworker stationed at the hospital. The caseworker would help the patient find programs that pay for medications. If none fit, the caseworker also may help the person apply for a voucher through the clinic.
In another scenario, a mother might come to the clinic because she was having difficulty getting a dental appointment for her child. A caseworker would help make an appointment and, if the appointment was in Great Falls, could also provide a gas or taxi voucher to get the family to the appointment and pay for the visit.
People with limited health insurance might also qualify for help from the clinic, Smith said. Clinic caseworkers also will be available to help families create a health services budget.
"There's a lot of low-income people that are really, really going to need it," Mel Gomke said of the clinic. Gomke has been attending Hill County Health Consortium meetings. The group was responsible for picking a board of directors for the clinic and has been helping plan the clinic.
"They don't have accessibility. They don't have the bucks to go to these facilities," Gomke said. He said the clinic will help address both of the problems.
The clinic will be be open, with a nurse available, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. Family planning is sometimes open for additional weekend hours
The health department also hopes to qualify for another U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration grant, one that would pay for a community health center and bring more direct health services to the clinic and almost double its funding.
Smith is optimistically planning for the county to receive that grant. She said Monday she'll reserve the back of the Bullhook Clinic sign for another name, the Bullhook Community Health Center.
If the county receives that grant, it would be able to hire a doctor and even provide dental services, Gomke said.
For the time being, Smith said the clinic will have to limit the value of the vouchers it gives to patients and families.
It may have additional help providing vouchers. A law firm has pledged several thousand dollars toward clinic vouchers, Bessette said.
"It's amazing, once you start something, who you hear from," she said.