Community Health Center: Dramatic transformation

Almost doubling space, the center is full again

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
The new reception area and waiting room at the Community Health Center lets all patients check in smoothly in one location, instead of requiring separate doors for dental and health clinic visitors.

The Community Health Center of Fort Dodge is thriving after undergoing a dramatic transformation this year.

The clinic at 126 N 10th St. has been serving all patients, including those with low income or no insurance, since 2006, and in August last year it held a ribbon cutting for its $1.6 million expansion and renovation project

The space has essentially doubled, said Chief Executive Officer Renae Kruckenberg.

“We went from 11 exam rooms to 21, and from four dental ops to eight,” Kruckenberg said.

But in a few short months, demand has continued to grow.

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
Community Health Center COO Colleen Koester gives a tour of the newly remodeled center. There are four new dental areas, like this one, bringing the total up to eight, as well as more exam rooms and places for therapy work.

“We’re kind of running out of space, as crazy as that sounds,” Kruckenberg said. “Pretty much everything’s full. … With the MCOs and getting more advertising out there and letting people know we were here, really I think helped us out.”

The entryway has been completely redesigned. All visitors now come in through a door near the south end of the building, and all use the same check-in location.

Before, there were about 10,000 square feet of undeveloped space in the old Joselyn Printing building that was basically just used for storage, said Kruckenberg.

The new arrangement puts staff in “pods” so that, for instance, dental staff all come to one shared office when they’re not seeing patients.

“It’s been great. That way everybody checks in in one location,” Kruckenberg said. “Then there’s three different doorways to the different departments. Before it was you had one doorway and it would get backlogged.”

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
Fort Dodge Community Health Center CEO Renae K, left, speaks outside with Ann Halbur, Dean Barnett, Steve Kersten and others during an open house and ribbon-cutting for renovated center. The $1.6 million expansion project at the clinic's existing location, 126 N 10th St., doubled the number of dental rooms from four to eight, and went from 11 to 21 medical exam rooms.

“With our new layout, it has really improved our workflow,” said Colleen Koester, chief operating officer.

In the coming year the center hopes to add a full-time physician, Kruckenberg said. Right now there are two part time. They also plan to further expand services, including dental services.

“We’re looking at adding dentures as an additional service, which is a huge need for the area,” she said.

The newest nurse practitioner already has a full schedule, something that usually takes six months to build up to, Kruckenberg added.

“Our dental numbers have about tripled,” she said. “Behavioral health has skyrocketed, with the addition of new providers, and the additional services. Before we had to refer people out to see a psychologist , and now we have that right here in house.”

Behavioral services have been offered since 2016, Koester said.

“It’s exciting to be able to provide all these services in one location,” Kruckenberg said.

The center’s social worker provides valuable knowledge, helping connect people to other services in Fort Dodge.

“She knows about every community service,” said Kruckenberg. “There are so many things people don’t know about” — from food help to housing assistance to help with heating and lighting in the winter.

The health center also provides a financial advocate. Even if someone isn’t a patient at the center, Kruckenberg said, anyone can contact the financial advocate for help with insurance or medicaid.

Ann Feser, nurse practitioner, is happy with the renovation.

“To see the improvement go from where we were to where are now was just truly amazing,” Feser said. “The patients really like it.

“Before it was kind of dingy-looking. The paint color wasn’t very bright. Now our patients come in and say I don’t know if this is the right clinic, it looks pretty fancy in here.”

The Community Health Center has been in its location since 2006, and opened a satellite clinic in Dayton in July 2014.

Its roots go back to the late 1990s when local churches, physicians, agencies and businesses in Fort Dodge identified a need for medical and dental assistance in the community. Free clinics began in 1999, and federal funds began coming in 2005.