By Sean Bendon
Open Door helps more than 50,000 patients access health services every year. The non-profit clinic works around a sliding scale based on salaries that allows for low income and non income patients to get the attention they need for extremely cheap or even free. Opening their doors in 1971, the Open Door Clinic began as a way for low-income residents of Arcata to get full medical coverage.
Since the birth of Open Door’s first clinic on 10th Street in Arcata, the company has expanded to 13 clinics that range from Crescent City to Fortuna and Willow Creek. They have also expanded their mobile reach, having three mobile clinics throughout Humboldt County that commute daily for patients in need. This has allowed for many homeless individuals and families to receive medical assistance, even in rural areas past Willow Creek.
The Open Door Community Health Center has been deemed a Federally Qualified Health Center since 1999 by the Bureau of Primary Health Care of the Health Resources and Services Administration of the US Department of Health and Human Services.
However, the issue of medical coverage has been a growing concern in Humboldt County since the election of Donald Trump, who makes claims to abolish the Affordable Care Act after taking office in January. Trump made public his plans to do away with government funded medical clinics in September of this year, directing his focus on Planned Parenthood clinics that offer abortion and birth control options for low-income individuals and families. His goal to take away these clinics comes by instituting the Hyde Amendment, effectively banning a majority of the federal taxpayer funding for these programs.
“We were around before the Affordable Healthcare Act and we’ll continue to be if it gets repealed,” said Chris Peters, Open Door’s public relations manager. “We’re here to insure people get the coverage they need.”
Open Door stands strong in this time of uncertainty, continuing to accept more patients each day and working to provide quality coverage. Every clinic is well known for accepting many insurance policies and even assisting in the setup of government funded policies such as MediCAL and CalFRESH. They work with each patient individually through their Member Services Department to set up insurance plans, which include translation/interpretation services, as well as housing assistance to patients in need.
On top of providing coverage to many homeless and low-income families, Open Door also provides an annual WellChild Exam to many schools in Humboldt County. These exams include free dental and medical checks for all students and happen at the beginning of each school year.
The health care providers at Open Door are special, as they are not overloaded with patients and have much lower patient/clinic hours than other Primary Care Clinics in the area. Each patient gets an individually set up care team through their clinic to maintain consistency and insure that each patient is taken care of accordingly. Implementing this policy has allowed for each clinic to focus more on their patients needs and keep doctors and their members together throughout their time at Open Door.
Open Door also stands out for providing medical service and support groups to Transgender members, who have struggled to find fair representation in other Primary Care Clinics. The clinics also offer case management, behavioral health consults, and access to mental health care, as well as dental care, prenatal care, pediatric care, and even teen care.
Reaching beyond the bounds of healthcare, Open Door has even created five community gardens where patients may go to grow their own food, assist in the upkeep of others, or just let go of stress. These gardens also provide food that each clinic keeps in their emergency food pantry. The pantries allow homeless and low income members to get fresh food for free.
“I am really happy at Open Door,” said Sasha Esmailian, a performance management specialist at Open Door’s Arcata administration offices. “I truly believe that the majority of its employees believe in its mission and work toward it every day.”
Over 600 members of the community work at Open Door, ranging from doctors and nurses to PR representatives and social workers. The clinic has just announced it will be starting a Nurse Practitioner/Physician Assistant Residency Program and a Family Medicine Residency to allow newly graduated medical students a place to start and grow. The hope is that more doctors will retain their residency and continue to provide affordable coverage on the North Coast.
Open Door continues to grow each day, actively working on their next steps as an affordable health care provider. They are not taking a backseat stance on the possible Affordable Care Act repeal and have made clear they won’t be leaving Humboldt County any time soon, except to open more clinics. The non-profit’s most recent leap came with the integration of the Eureka-based Redwood Family Practice last week, which now provides services for Open Door and marks one more clinic in Humboldt County.
“I think Open Door provides a great service to this community,” said Breanna Peterson, Open Door’s staff recruitment and retention specialist. “There will always be room for growth at Open Door, but we are moving on the right track.”