Fish River Health to build Fort Kent medical clinic
EAGLE LAKE, Maine - The USDA’s Rural Development program has agreed to loan $1,350,000 to Fish River Rural Health Service for the construction of a medical facility in Fort Kent.
“We are excited about improving the space to better serve our patients,” said FRRH Executive Director Heather Pelletier.
Fish River’s is one of six projects USDA approved statewide, totaling $11.1 million, for funding, according to a Jan. 5 press release.
Fish River Rural Health, started in 1990, is a private, nonprofit organization, which delivers health and dental services. Headquartered in Eagle Lake, FRRH, has clinics in Eagle Lake, Fort Kent and Madawaska.
Several years ago, Fish River moved its Fort Kent offices out of Northern Maine Medical Center and into a separate building a short distance away on Bolduc Avenue. In 2012, FRRH purchased that building.
Pelletier said the new facility will be built alongside and connected to the existing building being used for Fish River’s dental services. The top floor will house medical services and office space and employee training facilities will be located on the first floor. Dental services will continue to be offered at the Bolduc Avenue location.
“We expect to break ground this spring,” Pelletier said via telephone, Wednesday, Jan. 18. If everything goes as planned, she said, the expanded facility would be completed by early 2018, with providers seeing patients at the new location by fall of that year.
All medical and counseling services now offered at the Mountain View Drive clinic in Fort Kent will be moved over to the new facility. Pelletier said the Fish River directors have not yet decided what to do with that building once all services are moved to renovated Bolduc Avenue location.
Fish River offers medical and obstetric services at its Fort Kent location, as well as psychiatric medication management, RN care management services for Medicare recipients, behavioral and substance abuse counseling and optometry.
There are no changes to the services FRRH will provide at its new Fort Kent facility once it is completed, according to Pelletier. If anything, there could be an expansion of services and hours, she added.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has designated the FRRH service area as a “medically underserved area” for primary care, mental health and dental health, according to USDA.
Fish River Rural Health, which is a Federally Qualified Health Center, has seen demand for its medical services in its Fort Kent facility grow beyond the existing infrastructure, according to USDA.
Fish River saw a 43 percent increase in “unique patients” from 2014 to 2015, Pelletier said. “We are running out of space,” she said.
Pelletier said that, due to increasing patient demand and lack of space, providers have had to share space and rearrange schedules based on available space at the Fort kent clinic.
“Our staff are thrilled. They have been patient, but they are looking forward to the move,” said Pelletier.
In some cases patient appointment times have been based on available space and not always to meet the needs of the patient or client, according to Pelletier.
“With the new space we will be able to make those decisions based on when patients need the services,” she said.
The five other USDA projects recently announced are, $4.6 million for the Winter Harbor Utility District; $170,000 for the Penquis Mental Health Association; $4 million for the City of Eastport; $300,000 for the Waldoboro Utility District and $700,000 for Kennebec Montessori School, Inc.
Pelletier said the construction project is being funded through a combination of this new USDA direct loan and funds from a 2016 grant through the federal Health Resources and Services Administration
“These meaningful community projects will benefit thousands of rural Maine residents in significant ways, including improved access to wastewater infrastructure, health care and mental health programs, and the expansion of a rural education facility,” USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel said in the press release.
USDA Rural Development has Area Offices located in Presque Isle, Bangor, Lewiston, and Scarborough, as well as a State Office, located in Bangor. Further information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting USDA Rural Development’s web site at http://www.rd.usda.gov/me.