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Final report to be released on community health center

BEMIDJI – Interested parties are invited to an open meeting over the noon hour Friday to hear the results of 10 months’ worth of investigation into the possibility of creating a Bemidji community health center.

The U.S. Department of Health granted Northern Dental Access Center an $80,000 grant in 2011 to coordinate research in and planning for such a center.

Throughout 10 months, meetings, investigation, data collection and surveys were conducted to examine the feasibility of a federally qualified health center to care for uninsured and underinsured area residents.

The final report of that work will be released in a meeting to from noon to 1 p.m. Friday in the PrimeWest Health Community Room, 3124 Hannah Ave. NW.

“Clearly, we come away with knowing that there is much energy and support in our community for some type of community health center,” said Jeanne Edevold Larson, executive director of Northern Dental Access Center, in a press release.

Collaborating partners included Sanford Health, Beltrami Area Service Collaborative, Beltrami County Health and Human Services, United Way of Bemidji Area, and Community Resource Connections. More than 20 other organizations and community members also took part in assessment research and focus groups.

But while the intent of the process was to be prepared to develop funding proposals for such a center, Congress made significant cuts to the Federally Qualified Health Center program. This program follows a federally designed approach to care that includes coordinated dental care, mental health care, primary care and support services.

“Halfway through the process, the congressional cuts to the FQHC program make it impossible to pursue that route at this time,” Edevold Larson said in the release. “However, results of our efforts provide a solid foundation on steps that can move our community forward in incremental steps to be prepared for when funding becomes available.”

Printed copies of the final report will be available for interested residents. Those planning to attend the meeting are encouraged to bring a lunch. No RSVP is required.

“Many good things came from this process,” Edevold Larson told the Pioneer, noting that community members and health-care providers came together for collaboration. “We now have a good foundation for seeking other resources.”