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Ready, set, grow!

Community Health Center looks to continue expanding care in 2024

-Messenger photo by Bill Shea
Tammy Christensen, left, dental manager for the Community Health Center of Fort Dodge, and Anna Modeland, digital denture technician, examine some of the denture components that can now be made at the center with a 3D printer. Using the printer reduces the cost of dentures and eliminates the need for patients to make six trips to the center to get their dentures.

The Community Health Center of Fort Dodge expanded into Eagle Grove last year in a move that not only preserved access to dental care there but also added medical and mental health care.

In 2024, it will do more of the same, providing more options for care in Wright County.

At its main location in downtown Fort Dodge, the center’s dental staff will continue using a 3D printer to make dentures in a way that saves time for patients.

And in March, a pharmacy will finally open in the center.

Expansion in Wright County

-Messenger photo by Bill Shea
Pharmacist Hannah Miller stands in the area inside the Community Health Center of Fort Dodge building, which is being renovated to become a pharmacy. The pharmacy is expected to open in March. Miller, who will manage it, is a Fort Dodge native and graduate of Prairie Valley High School.

In March 2023, the Community Health Center purchased the office of Eagle Grove Family Dentistry after its owner, Dr. Misty Shaver, announced she was moving from the area.

The new Community Health Center of Eagle Grove welcomed its first patients in July 2023.

Patients are still getting their teeth and gums taken care of there. But they can also get primary health care and mental health care there.

There are 11 Health Center employees at the Eagle Grove location.

“They are busy,” said Colleen Miller, the center’s chief operating officer.

They are so busy that every available appointment slot is filled for the foreseeable future, according to Miller.

The addition of another site in Wright County may offer a chance to share the workload. This week, Renae Kruckenberg, the chief executive officer of the Health Center, announced the purchase of a former dental office building in Clarion. That building is twice the size of the one in Eagle Grove. Medical and mental health services will be offered there along with dental care.

New services

Community Health Center patients who needed dentures used to have to make six trips to the Fort Dodge site. Their finished dentures cost $500 to $700.

New technology in use since February means that only three trips to the office are required and the cost has been reduced to about $300.

At the heart of the new denture service is a 3D printer.

Tammy Christensen, the dental manager, said the process begins by using a handheld digital scanner to make precise images of the patient’s mouth. Those images and measurements are ultimately plugged into the printer, which produces complete dentures. It can print multiple pairs of dentures at once.

Christensen said the electronic file used to print the dentures is saved so that they can be printed again if they are broken or lost.

A long-planned pharmacy will open in the building in March. Hannah Miller, a Fort Dodge native and graduate of Prairie Valley High School, will be the pharmacist. She earned her pharmacy degree from the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas.

Behind the scenes helping the staff keep track of all their patients is a health records software program called EPIC. After months of training, the program went live in September.

Within EPIC is an application called My Chart that is useful to patients. Using My Chart, patients can check in for appointments, send messages to their care providers, look at their test results and request prescription refills.

The Community Health Center opened in Fort Dodge in 2006. It also has sites in Dayton, Mason City and Eagle Grove and will soon have one in Clarion.

For individuals who qualify, the center’s fees for service are on a sliding scale based on their ability to pay.

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