Opening the door to health

MARSHALL – Faced with the problem of how to bring quality medical and dental care to underserved patients, Open Door Health Center put its clinics on wheels.

ODHC operates a mobile medical clinic and mobile dental clinic out of two converted buses that offer services to people in southern Minnesota without any restrictions based on where place of residence, age, gender, ethnicity, language, economic or citizenship.

On Tuesday afternoon, Jen Theneman, chief of operations for ODHC, and Lisa Wojcik, development and communications manager, came to Marshall to raise awareness of what ODHC has to offer and seeking community feedback on how to better serve the needs of the area.

People attending represented area schools, clinics and outreach organizations.

Discussion ranged from transportation issues for rural residents, to diet and health maintenance education, through producing understandable translations for non-English speakers.

Minority advocate Tina Quinones pointed out people in the Hispanic community are susceptible to diabetes, which involves issues of diagnosis, treatment, diet and translation.

“People with mental health issues die 10 years before other people,” Sarah Ackerman, representing Western Mental Health, said. “Healthcare needs to be proactive rather than reactive.”

According to Theneman, 72 percent of the people served by ODHC fall below the federal poverty guidelines, 50 percent are uninsured, and 24 percent need an interpreter.

Last year the ODHC mobile medical clinic served 86 patients in 118 visits. The mobile dental clinic served 955 patients in 3,129 visits; an often under-appreciated factor in preventive medicine given how often dental problems are a precursor to more serious health issues.

For the uninsured, ODHC offers clients help navigating the application process for MNSure, according to Theneman.

Future plans include actively publicizing the services ODHC has to offer and where and when to find a mobile clinic.