New Millinocket health clinic a boon to the Katahdin region, officials say

Certified Dental Assistant Renee Stanley (left) and Jennifer Kusner, a dental student doing an externship from Tufts University, tend to patient Sonya Andrick at the new Katahdin Valley Health Center in Millinocket on April 26, 2012.
Certified Dental Assistant Renee Stanley (left) and Jennifer Kusner, a dental student doing an externship from Tufts University, tend to patient Sonya Andrick at the new Katahdin Valley Health Center in Millinocket on April 26, 2012. Buy Photo
Posted April 26, 2012, at 6:40 p.m.

MILLINOCKET, Maine — Stan Pettegrow loves his new workplace.

About 12,000 square feet of gleaming new offices and examination rooms, the new Katahdin Valley Health Center at Aroostook Avenue and Summer Street is a vast improvement over the 1,800-square-foot space it supplements, the licensed clinical social worker said.

“I think there is a really nice flow here,” Pettegrow said Thursday. “The clinical space can accommodate a lot more patients and providers. The most important part is that they [patients] can receive their mental health services right in their doctor’s office, and it [the new building] definitely opens the possibilities for even more behavioral health care services.”

About 50 people attended an open house at the facility on Thursday, the first held since construction of the $2.3 million primary care, behavioral and dental health care center began in January 2011.

The center is downtown Millinocket’s first new building in decades and represents a valuable addition to the Katahdin region for its ability to complement services offered at Millinocket Regional Hospital and by the region’s other health care providers, town officials have said.

“It’s the best thing to happen to downtown in years,” Town Councilor Michael Madore said Wednesday.

Construction of the center is almost finished. Katahdin Valley Health Center officials, who also run clinics in Houlton, Island Falls and Patten, have decided to add customer service windows and space to the front entranceway and lobby areas to make them more accommodating. That work should be finished in a few weeks, said Lori Donley, the organization’s chief financial officer.

Clinic workers began seeing patients in the new building in mid-January. Besides drawing people into downtown, the clinic likely will save Katahdin region residents trips to medical offices out of the area and reduce emergency room visits, Donley said.

Almost entirely grant-funded, the four Katahdin Valley centers treat about 9,700 patients and handle about 40,000 patient visits annually. Of those, about 78 percent are patients whose income levels fall below the poverty line, Donley said.

The center has 13 exam rooms, seven more than previous, and a nursing lab that handles on-site urinalysis, strep throat and pregnancy tests, said Debra Wilkins, a registered nurse and the center’s clinical coordinator. It also has pulmonary function, hearing and automatic external defibrillators and testing equipment.

The center is staffed by one doctor, a pediatrician; one physician’s assistant; a dentist and a licensed clinical social worker. It is recruiting another dentist, doctors specializing in family care, a registered nurse and associated support staff to assist those positions, Donley said.

Katahdin Valley officials have just purchased telehealth equipment for the Millinocket clinic through a $148,000 grant that will allow center patients and doctors to access off-site medical specialists, Donley said.

The center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday. Anyone interested in seeking treatment can call toll-free 866-366-5842.

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