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HealthFinders Collaborative, which has clinics in Northfield and Faribault, and the Free Clinic of Steele County are expected to merge June 1, making one stronger entity. (File photo/

The boards of directors of both the Free Clinic of Steele County, based in Owatonna and HealthFinders Collaborative, based in Faribault have agreed to pursue a merger.

The merger, which set to formally close by the end of June 2021, is expected to result in a stronger combined entity able to serve more communities and patients. The combined organization will be led by the current HealthFinders Collaborative Executive Director Charlie Mandile and his leadership team. It will use the HealthFinders Collaborative brand.

“I am very excited by this opportunity,” said Mandile. “Both the Free Clinic of Steele County and HealthFinders Collaborative are committed to providing high-quality care to families who are often on the margins of our health care system. Together, we will be able to increase access and expand services to more people who need them. The Free Clinic and HealthFinders Collaborative share very similar missions and values. The opportunity to expand access to medical care to our neighbors who need it is the driving force behind this merger.”

Both organization leverage volunteer providers such as nurse practitioners, dentists and physicians to offer services to patients who otherwise would not have access. Regardless of insurance coverage or spoken language, the community-based clinics provide education, advocacy and access to high-quality care.

“Bringing these two entities together is a huge step forward for our communities,” said Dr. Brian Bunkers, president and CEO of Mayo Clinic Health Systems in Faribault and Owatonna. “They have similar objectives and values, and merging will give them the synergy needed to take each organization to an even higher level of service.”

HealthFinders Collaborative services in Faribault and Northfield will experience no changes in services or operations as a result of the merger. All existing appointments and services will continue without interruption. The Free Clinic will launch more consistent and coordinated scheduling and accelerate needed process improvements such as electronic medical records and phone and volunteer scheduling infrastructure as part of the merger process.

“Our model is based on local community engagement,” said Mandile, “and as we expand to Owatonna, this will continue to be central to our work. We are committed to hiring local staff and engaging the local community.”

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