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Health center seeks private funding

Brenda Boland recently started her own bookkeeping service. Having her own business gives her lots of autonomy, but she doesn't make enough yet to provide her own health insurance.


Brenda Boland recently started her own bookkeeping service. Having her own business gives her lots of autonomy, but she doesn't make enough yet to provide her own health insurance.

She's one of a growing number of people in Fargo-Moorhead who gets her care at the Family HealthCare Center on a sliding fee scale, based on her ability to pay.

"It makes it a lot easier for me to go to the doctor," said Boland. "At least now I don't have to be fearful of not having insurance."

Family HealthCare Center serves 11,000 patients, 40 percent of them uninsured. Yet the uninsured population in Fargo-Moorhead is estimated at 18,000 to 24,000.

"That's who we're trying to reach out to," Maureen Day-Woods, the center's development director, said of efforts to extend services.


The center, which has three primary care clinic locations and two dental clinics, is in the final stage of a $100,000 fund-raising campaign, with the goal of serving more uninsured and underinsured patients.

For every $135 contribution, the center can provide care for one person.

The center, which is forming a foundation to further its fund-raising efforts, is about $30,000 from reaching its goal, with the campaign scheduled to end Dec. 31.

The Family HealthCare Center -- which depends on patient revenues for almost two-thirds of its income -- is making two appeals to donors, one philanthropic, the other directed more at self-interest.

"We're here for the community," said Sherlyn Dahl, the Family HealthCare Center's director. "You just never know when it might be you or a loved one who needs that care."

The other approach is more empathetic, with donors asked to imagine what it's like to live without health insurance.

Often, it means uninsured patients wait for their illnesses to become acute -- and therefore more costly to treat -- with care given in emergency rooms, instead of during preventive or early intervention visits to a clinic.

"Because we exist many patents aren't forced to go to emergency rooms, which is costly to all of us," Day-Woods said.


Although Medicaid, the government health program for the poor, reimburses the center according to its costs, those payments don't cover important ancillary services, including case management of chronic diseases and a medical interpreter program.

In collaboration with other health providers, the center, which serves a refugee population of almost 3,000, provides interpreters in nine foreign languages.

"Half of our patients are racial or ethnic minorities," Dahl said. The center provides health care for American Indians and the homeless.

In fact, the center's origins date back to 1990, when Fargo-Moorhead received a grant to provide care for the homeless. It operates a clinic at the Salvation Army.

Now the center -- which is accredited by the same organization that evaluates local hospitals -- handles more than 40,000 clinic visits a year, with a $5 million budget.

One-fifth of the people served by the center have insurance. Many, including many refugees, started as patients without coverage, but have stayed as patients.

Patients with insurance, in fact, constitute a growing clientele.

"The only thing that changes is how that visit is paid for," Dahl said.


More information about Family HealthCare Center -- and how to support its programs -- can be found online at ( www.famhealthcare.org ).

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522

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