HealthFinders ramps up services, outreach to patients in Rice County

Mohamed Baluul HealthFinders Outreach Advocate
Renae Blom HealthFinders Dental Director

HealthFinders Collaborative has high hopes for health care this year, having welcomed two additional staff members to the team to help patients access new services and connect with an underserved demographic.As part of the organization’s most recent initiative to provide dental care options for Rice County residents, HealthFinders has used new grant funding from Delta Dental to hire a hygienist who will serve as a coordinator for all dental care services. “I’ll be doing everything from getting basic supplies to quality control,” said Renae Blome, the new dental director. “I will be doing direct patient care, too. There are going to be a lot of patients. They’re already lining up.”

According to a 2011 federal Medicaid report, while government-managed health care programs pay for emergency room visits for adult enrollees with dental emergencies, coverage of outpatient dentist office treatment varies greatly from state to state, with many receiving no or limited dental care.“We can get access to care for kids usually pretty easily but the adults are falling through and getting pushed aside,” said Blome.

Blome has spent the past six years running her own non-profit Bright Smiles Inc., working to provide preventive dental care and education to underserved children in the area. While she loves working with children, Blome saw a growing need among adults and wanted to do something to help.“We all have a passion for this work and there is such a need for it,” said Blome. “I felt like I needed a change and I do believe that things happen for a reason.” Now working in tandem with HealthFinders, she is currently finalizing policies and procedures for the dental clinic which will run out of the organization’s Faribault location. All that’s left to do is get the equipment installed.

“We’d start tomorrow if we had the facility, but I think by early spring we’ll be up and running,” said Jerry Appeldoorn, a longtime HealthFinders associate.

The clinic will have no shortage of patients once the dental equipment and professionals are secured, with Blome bringing a following of families and Mohamed Baluul, a new HealthFinders navigator, building even stronger ties with the Somali population in Faribault.“My job is to act as a bridge between the health care system and distinct communities,” said Baluul. “I want to serve the community and educate them on health issues that affect them.”In addition to setting up appointment for clients, Baluul is also helping individuals and families access care through MNSure – a task that is easier said than done. “We’ve had the same frustrations as everybody else,” said Charlie Mandile, executive director of HealthFinders. “Right now the website is not in working order and all I hear about are the issues.” When the all the bugs are worked out, Mandile hopes they can use the website to help facilitate the application process for patients looking to receive public assistance.

“You don’t have to go out of the country or even Rice County to help people in need,” said Appeldoorn. “There’s a great need out there. People are waiting in line.”


Reach reporter Erin O'Neill in Faribault at 333-3132 or in Northfield at 645-1115, or follow her on @ReporterONeill.