Small Health Clinic Opens for Agricultural Workers - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Small Health Clinic Opens for Agricultural Workers

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MISSOULA -

A small health clinic north of Lolo gives agricultural workers a new option for healthcare.

The Montana Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Council opened the clinic last month, and employees said they've already seen dozens of patients.

The Montana Migrant Council has provided services to agricultural workers at nine clinics across the state since 1971.

Employees said the idea is to give primary and preventative health care to people who might otherwise go without.

Kelsey Angel, an outreach worker at the Lolo clinic, said the 40 patients they've seen are actually local farmers who have lived in the area for generations.

"Often, people will kind of hear our name and count themselves out, but the main qualification we look for is you give the majority of your time and labor to agriculture," she said.

Angel said they go door-to-door to spread the word about the clinic to local farmers. She said those personal, grassroots outreach efforts make healthcare more appealing to agricultural workers.

"I think it's also a lot slower pace, where a lot of clinics, you'll have your 15-minute visit with the doctor, here we schedule people for hour-long appointments initially," Angel said.

The clinic is run by just two nurse practitioners, Angel, and another outreach worker out of one exam room and a lab. But there's room to expand inside the leased building.

"There's three offices upstairs that eventually could also be exam rooms."

Angel said the Lolo location is easily accessible to people in the Bitterroot and Flathead Valleys and Missoula.

When summer rolls around, Angel said they do expect to see a big influx of H2A workers, or people who are in the U.S. on a foreign agricultural work visa.

"Our mission is in improving the lives for agricultural workers and their families," said Claudia Stephens, of the Montana Migrant Council.

Stephens said they hope to help prevent disease by offering cancer screenings and diabetes and heart disease testing.

"And maintain good health through regularly scheduled clinic visits."

Right now, the clinic is open only on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, but Angel said they'll offer expanded evening and Saturday hours once they get busier.

"For the people that we have been able to see, I think we've provided really excellent service so they'll go tell their neighbors and that's how we've gotten most of our referrals," she said.

Employees said a dental hygienist and a behavioral counselor will offer services at the clinic in the future.

The Migrant Council has provides healthcare to about 600 people in the Flathead Valley every summer out of a mobile clinic.

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