2019 has been an exciting year for North Metro Clinic (formerly North Metro Pediatrics). On August 1st, North Metro joined Neighborhood HealthSource (NHS) as the fourth clinic site and rebranded as Neighborhood HealthSource- North Metro Clinic. Current provider and support staff will remain at the Coon Rapids site as NHS employees, providing high quality, affordable care to our pediatric patients. A few new NHS team members will join them as we strengthen our clinical team and begin to incorporate family practice. We are poised to expand service to patients of all ages by late autumn. But we need your help! This fall, your donations will help support the launch of full family practice at North Metro Clinic as part of our Give to Grow NHS online fundraising campaign. This effort will culminate in an open house at North Metro Clinic on Wednesday, November 13, where donors and community members will have the chance to meet our new family practice provider and take a tour of the clinic.
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Neighborhood HealthSource has been committed to improving the health of our communities and easing access to affordable healthcare for nearly 50 years. Connie Blackwell, a pediatric nurse practitioner and co-founder of North Metro Pediatrics (NMP), has been championing a similar mission in Anoka County since 2005. This year, NMP joined the Neighborhood HealthSource family as our fourth clinic site.
Before Connie co-founded North Metro Pediatrics, the one of the few nurse-practitioner-run pediatric medical practice in the Twin Cities market, she had been working in private practice and saw many families denied medical care if they were uninsured or underinsured. “People would be turned away if they couldn’t pay for services,” Connie says. “It’s a crime that access can be an issue for families.”
At the time, there was a grant-funded child-teen check-up program in Anoka Public Schools funded by a United Way Grant, aimed at helping low-income families get care. “That grant funding ended, and families who couldn’t afford care didn’t have access anymore,” Connie explains. Combined with her experience in private practice, this loss of resources convinced her of the lack of affordable, accessible healthcare for kids and their families in the North Metro.
Time proved to be an issue in the world of private practice too—for Connie there was never enough of it. “I would only have 20 minutes with a new mom. She would have tons of questions, and it just wasn’t enough,” she explains. She saw the need for families to have more time with their providers, to build relationships and create trust.
In 2005, it became clear that her work in private practice was keeping her from reaching the families most in need in her community, and so Connie co-founded North Metro Pediatrics. Originally located in the Anoka-Washington Head Start building, the clinic treated kids whose families had trouble getting the care they needed. “It was pretty much a one-room show with a little office space,” Connie recalls.
The operation eventually outgrew the shared space and in 2010, NMP applied for and received a grant from the Healthier Communities Clinic Foundations to build out their very own clinic space right in the community. “We are just a mile away from the original location,” Connie says. In the 14 years since NMP was founded, patients who first came as kids have begun bringing their own children to the clinic. This, Connie says, is the most rewarding part of her work. “The relationships we establish are so important,” she says. “You see families grow, and to see them come back again and again for years. Everyone is so grateful.”
North Metro Pediatrics took an exciting step this past August when it joined Neighborhood HealthSource to become our fourth clinic site, North Metro Clinic. For Connie, this represents an opportunity to reach patients of all ages in Anoka County, both family members of the kids the clinic already serves and new members of the community. “Before this, Anoka County had no access for underserved adults,” she says. “Now we can see the whole family! It’s about building on and expanding the resources we offer at North Metro Clinic. I’m so thrilled to be working on this venture together [with Neighborhood HealthSource].”