FORT KENT, Maine — Two and a half years after breaking ground on a new comprehensive health care clinic in Fort Kent, Fish River Rural Health celebrated the grand opening of its expanded Bolduc Avenue Health Center on Wednesday, Nov. 14.
The new facility is connected to an existing building on Bolduc Avenue which houses the clinic’s dental services. At more than 10,000 square feet, the expanded portion of the health center houses services such as family practice medicine, osteopathic manipulation therapy, behavioral health and substance use disorder counseling, psychiatric medication management, family dental, family optometry, podiatry, RN care management, and health education and wellness programs.
“The expansion increases patient privacy and comfort,” said FRRH Executive Director Heather Pelletier.
For example, patients who previously shared information with staffers in the hallway, will have increased privacy due to a new nursing station. Medical professionals also will perform vision screenings and measure a patient’s height and weight inside exam rooms, rather than in the hallway.
“Considerable detail was invested to increase privacy and patient comfort at every appointment,” Pelletier said.
Now that they have a large enough facility, FRRH has hired three additional medical professionals — a family nurse practitioner, Sarah Pelletier; family physician, Dr. Jessica Partlow; and optometrist, Dr. Amber Huleva.
FRRH’s podiatrist, Dr. Lawrence Crystal also will see patients at the new facility.
“Dr. Crystal has provided services at FRRH’s Eagle Lake Center for a number of years, but due to space limitations could not offer this specialty service in Fort Kent,” Pelletier said. Now, the new specialty clinic space will allow Dr. Crystal to provide services in both both Eagle Lake and Fort Kent.
A meeting room in the new health center will provide space for FRRH’s Breast Cancer Survivor Group, “The Journey.”
“We have graciously borrowed space here and there over the last 11 years and with the construction of this dedicated space, we can now hold support group meetings without worry,” Pelletier said. “We also have been discussing other wellness activities and group session opportunities that this space will accommodate for the Fort Kent community.”
Kathy Rioux of Fort Kent, a client of FRRH, was one of more than a hundred community members who toured the new facility on Wednesday. The celebration also included a ribbon cutting ceremony sponsored by the Greater Fort Kent Area Chamber of Commerce.
“Boy it’s a nice place. It’s lovely. I’m happy Fort Kent has such a facility; it’s great,” Rioux said.
Fish River Rural Health is a non-profit organization which has been providing health care services in the St. John Valley since 1990.
“We believe that access to health care should be a right, not a privilege,” according to the FRRH website.
Rep. John Martin, chair of the FRRH Board of Directors, addressed the community members who attended Wednesday’s ceremony. He said that the new $3 million facility is funded in part by a $1 million grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration and a $1.35 million loan from the USDA’s Community Facilities Direct Loans and Guaranteed Loans program.
Devoe Construction of Eagle Lake built the expansion, which Judy Johnson of Harriman Architects and Engineers designed.
In October, Fish River Rural Health also expanded its location in Madawaska to include family practice and behavioral health services.
This story originally appeared on the Fiddlehead Focus.