With State Rep. Brian Daniels (R-Faribault), State Sen. John Jasinski (R-Faribault) and other community leaders on hand Wednesday, HealthFinders Collaborative ceremonially “broke ground” on its new clinic. Or rather, smashed walls.

Because the structure which will become the new clinic exists, but needs renovations, HealthFinders staff and several others took turns knocking out pieces of drywall in preparation for the upcoming modifications.

The clinic, located at 1415 Town Square Lane in Faribault, is expected to open later this year. It will offer 9,000 square feet of space, compared to just 2,000 square feet at HealthFinders’ current Faribault location at 223 Central Ave. This significant increase will help HealthFinders fill a growing need for health services among marginalized populations in the Faribault area. HealthFinders also has a clinic in Northfield, at 710 Division St.

At the new location, the number of dental chairs will increase from two to six, enabling the community health clinic to accommodate demand for one of its most popular programs. The new facility will also have more room to provide patients with basic medical services including mental health care and treatment for opiate addiction, as well as a community kitchen for nutrition classes and a wellness room.

Both of HealthFinders’ offices are staffed largely by volunteer providers, nurses and interpreters. With providers fluent in English, Spanish and Somali, the organization works closely with area hospitals to promote health and wellness for all Rice County residents.

HealthFinders Executive Director Charlie Mandile emphasized that in its new facility, HealthFinders will continue to focus not only on providing basic health services, but on promoting health and wellness throughout the community.

“We came together to solve the question of not, ‘How do we open up a clinic?’ but ‘How do we help our patients and community be healthier?’” said Mandile. “This idea is really as much a part of us today as it has ever been.”

Clinic in the church basement

HealthFinders’ origins date back to 2002, when a group of community leaders identified access to health care for marginalized communities in Rice County as a significant issue in need of a solution. In 2004, HealthFinders incorporated as a 501 © (3) nonprofit organization and began fundraising with the goal of opening a community health clinic. The next year, HealthFinders opened in the basement of Dundas’ Little Prairie Church.

With help from local hospitals, clinics and pharmacies, as well as various nonprofit organizations and generous donors, the church basement clinic served the health care needs of patients for more than a decade. HealthFinders added the Central Avenue location in Faribault in 2012, and later replaced the Dundas location with larger facilities in Northfield, which enabled it to dramatically increase its footprint in Rice County.

Earlier this year, HealthFinders received a $1 million gift from the Delta Dental Foundation of Minnesota, enabling it to purchase the significantly larger building in Faribault. The building, which previously served as an office of the architectural and engineering firm ISG, will be remodeled to suit the needs of patients. The new clinic’s design will be informed by over a year of consultations with HealthFinders patients and community members.

To complete the remodel, HealthFinders has hired Faribault’s ProCon construction team. Rice County Commissioner and longtime Faribault City Council member Steve Underdahl will supervise the project. Underdahl praised HealthFinders’s mission and achievements in increasing health outcomes in Rice County.

“Obviously there’s many choices that people have for health care but there’s a lot of unmet needs,” Underdahl noted. “I think HealthFinders has really done a great job of meeting that for some of our populations.”

While Faribault Mayor Kevin Voracek and Councilor Royal Ross had to leave the event early to attend the evening’s City Council meeting, Northfield Mayor Rhonda Pownell was able to get in a few words at the groundbreaking ceremony. Pownell expressed her gratitude for all that the organization has done to improve health outcomes across Rice County.

“We are so excited about this vision of making sure that health is available to all people where they’re at,” Pownell said. “Open, safe, welcoming communities where all people can thrive, that’s absolutely essential, and I just want to commend you for your vision.”

Reach Reporter Andrew Deziel at 507-333-3129 or follow him on Twitter @FDNandrew.

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