HAMILTON, Mont. (AP) — The Montana Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Council has opened a year-round health clinic north of Lolo.
There's a need for the clinic to serve agricultural workers, and Ravalli County has one of the highest percentages of agricultural workers in the state, Claudia Stephens, the council's strategic planning specialist, tells the Ravalli Republic (http://bit.ly/1g9SJUv).
"We believe that there is a population there that is in need," Stephens said. "We have gotten our clinic and are letting as many people know about it as possible. It's for agricultural workers. I've been told by the Department of Labor that agriculture is one of the largest groups of employers in Ravalli County, so there is a need."
The nonprofit clinic opened in January and is staffed by a clinical director, two outreach workers and two family nurse practitioners.
The clinic provides primary and preventive care, wellness exams, health screening, obstetrics and gynecology care, and testing for sexually transmitted diseases. A dental hygienist is also available once a week.
"Our job is to go out in the field and tell people that we are here," outreach worker Kelsey Angel said. "We go door-to-door and let people know what services we offer."
The Migrant Health program has four year-round clinics. There are also nine satellite seasonal clinics in remote areas of the state. In recent years, the program has expanded to include oral health care, mental health and substance abuse counseling and prevention.
The new clinic fulfills a goal of opening a facility near the Bitterroot Valley, Stephens said. "We have had a seasonal clinic for the cherry harvesters in Flathead Lake since 1987, so our presence has been in the area for a long time," she said.
Services are provided on a sliding scale relative to income, and patients who can't pay aren't turned away, Stephens said.
Many third- and fourth-generation Montana farmers are treated at the clinics, she said. Spanish-speaking workers are also employed at the clinics to help with migrant workers.
The clinics try to encourage preventive care, Stephens said.
"We're all the same in that we don't want to see the nurse unless we're sick," she said. "And our focus is different: We believe with regular visits to the nurse, we can prevent long-term illnesses."
Information from: Ravalli Republic, http://www.ravallirepublic.com