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Rural health care centers provide low-cost care

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Providing health care services in rural areas is vital to addressing health disparity needs in the United States, said Candice King, the ACORN clinic’s executive director.

To get dental services she can afford, 73-year-old Juanita Jenkins has one of her sons drive her 16 miles from her home in the Duval neighborhood in northeast Gainesville to the Alachua County Organization for Rural Needs (ACORN) Clinic in Brooker. The 32-mile round trip is worth it, she says.

Jenkins is one of thousands of people in Alachua County and surrounding counties who need the inexpensive services provided by nonprofit organizations, such as ACORN, which was established in 1974 to serve area migrant workers.

“I started coming here last year and I’ve been here to the dentist about four or five times,” said Jenkins, after getting fitted for dentures. “They take good care of you here, and I would recommend their services to anybody.”

Thursday is National Rural Health Day, created to recognize rural health workers for their efforts and their collaborations that address the unique challenges faced in rural communities.

Providing health care services in rural areas is vital to addressing health disparity needs in the United States, said Candice King, the ACORN clinic’s executive director.

ACORN has grown from a singlewide trailer on a sandy lot of land to several modular buildings that house dental, medical and administrative offices at 23320 N. State Road 235 in Brooker.

The clinic provides a range of medical, dental and mental health care services, referrals to other health services and social services and professional education and training, King said.

Like ACORN, Archer Family Healthcare, an arm of the University of Florida College of Nursing, started out in a small building before moving into a larger building to better serve its patients. According to Joan Newell-Walker, manager of the clinic, retired Dr. Dee Williams lobbied to establish the clinic after being urged to do so by Archer residents. Williams’ efforts led to the clinic opening in 2001, and it has grown from an approximately 1,000-square-foot, two-story bungalow to a more than 5,000-square-foot facility composed of six modular buildings that were built in downtown Archer in 2007.

“We have grown to accommodate approximately 5,000 patient visits annually,” Newell-Walker said.

Patients visit the Archer clinic for a variety of reasons, including chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, as well as prenatal care, medication consultations, health education and disease prevention, immunizations, physical exams and more, Newell-Walker said.

The clinic in Archer was established to meet the needs of residents who live in the rural community in southwest Alachua County who didn’t have a health care facility before the clinic opened. But it’s grown to serve patients from throughout North Central Florida, Newell-Walker said.

The clinic’s funding comes from local, state and federal sources, and it’s run by advanced registered nurse practitioners, Newell-Walker said.

The nurse practitioners provide expert care for patients and are supported by other health care professionals, including a case manager, community health nurses and a consulting physician, Newell-Walker said.

At ACORN, a wide variety of dental, medical and mental health care services are provided, including disease management education, general medical care, reduced cost X-rays, women’s health care, dental exams and X-rays, extractions, orthodontics, root canals and more.

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