Community Health Center

Serving patients better

-Submitted photo
The Community Health Center of Fort Dodge offers a wide variety of medical, dental and behavioral health care.

For the many patients who see their providers at Community Health Center of Fort Dodge, some recently completed renovations will allow the center to serve their needs even better.

The work includes an expanded dental area and additional mental health care offices.

Beyond the construction work, the center has added staff and taken some of its services into the community.

It is also switching to a new electronic health records system that, among other things, will give patients access to their information and even allow them to check in for appointments in advance.

Renae Kruckenberg, chief executive officer, and Colleen Miller, chief operating officer, are pretty sure the patients will like the improvements.

“We added four more dental operatories,” Kruckenberg said. “It allows us to see more patients. It helps keep the flow going easier.”

The additional four chairs make for a total of 12. The design and decor are similar to what was already there so everything matches.

Kruckenberg said the goal is to have a total of four dentists at the center this year.

She said the changes are a response to changes in state Medicaid guidelines for managed care organizations for children.

“A lot of dentists don’t accept patients with MCOs,” she said. “It increases the need for youth dental services. It’s our way of responding to our community’s need. Health Centers do that.”

The center also added a mobile dental unit that goes to local elementary schools to help provide care for children.

“The Fort Dodge Noon Rotary raised the funds and allowed us to purchase it,” Kruckenberg said.

Kruckenberg and Miller both said that if it’s successful, they want to expand that program.

In the behavioral health department, several additions in space and staff will allow the Community Health Center to better serve the mental health needs of the community.

“We added four additional rooms, we hired three new therapists and an additional social worker,” Kruckenberg said.

A total of nine providers care for patients in the behavioral health department.

She said there’s a great need in the community for mental health services.

“There was a need before,” she said. “When COVID came, it exemplified the need for mental health services. The three new therapists, their panels are almost full. They’re booked out at two weeks, usually that takes a year.”

She hopes to make more use of the help.

“We try to remove the stigma,” she said. “It’s OK not to be OK.”

She said many of the patients just need someone to talk to help them sort out their lives and learn day-to-day coping skills.Some need help dealing with past trauma.

The Health Center has also added a group therapy room for which certification is being sought. The center also hopes to provide more substance abuse counseling.

Some other additions to the Health Center include a renovated administrative area with a conference space, a new gym for the staff and a new break room with a full kitchen.

There’s also a new elevator between the two floors of the building. And in case of a power failure, there is a newly installed generator that can keep the lights and everything else in the building running.

X-ray equipment has been added, which the staff is training with. Kruckenberg said the training will be complete by the end of May and basic X-rays will then be available at the center.

Center staff members joke that 2023 will be an EPIC year because EPIC is the new electronic health records system they will be switching to. That system is expected to go live in September.

“It’s going to be important both to our patients and our staff,” Miller said.

Kruckenberg said EPIC will give patients access to their charts, enable them to correspond with their providers and check in for appointments in advance.

“You can check in from your phone so you don’t have to stand in line,” she said.


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