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Sawtooth Mountain Clinic deploys groundbreaking Opioid use disorder treatment in Cook County.

Jul 31, 2019 09:58AM ● By Editor
New Sawtooth Mountain Clinic CEO Kate Surbaugh (left) and retiring CEO Rita Plourde discussed new healthcare innovations and programs on the eve of National Community Health Center Week. Photo:  Sawtooth Mountain Clinic

Media Release from Sawtooth Mountain Clinic - July 31, 2019

Sawtooth Mountain Clinic has announced details today of a medication-assisted treatment program which assists patients struggling with opioid use disorder. Opioid abuse has been called a national health emergency by the Centers of Disease Control with an average of 130 Americans dying each day from opioid overdoses.

“The community should credit Sawtooth Mountain Clinic doctors Kurt Farchmin, MD and Catherine Hansen, MD for bringing this innovative program to Cook County so patients do not have to seek assistance miles away for the benefit of this treatment.  It is one of the latest programs in our legacy of health care innovations brought to our home towns”, said Rita Plourde, outgoing CEO of Sawtooth Mountain Clinic.  Plourde announced her retirement earlier this year after 38 years of service.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is the use of medications in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, which is effective in the treatment of opioid use disorders (OUD) and can help some people to sustain recovery.  The medication of choice at Sawtooth Mountain Clinic is buprenorphine, a non-addictive opioid that treats withdrawal symptoms and also blocks cravings long-term. Dr. Catherine Hansen had experience with an MAT program during her residency and helped guide the process of setting the program at SMC. This winter Dr. Farchmin was also trained in buprenorphine therapy and the clinic started offering appointments in March.

Dr. Catherine Hansen joined the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic medical staff in October 2018.  Photo: Sawtooth Mountain Clinic

Dr. Kurt Farchmin began treating patients in the MAT program in March:  Photo:  Sawtooth Mountain Clinic

“I have been the main RN working with the MAT program and its development and have seen several success stories within the program. It is some of the most gratifying work we do in the clinic,” said newly appointed CEO Katherine Surbaugh.

Several other new programs have been launched at Sawtooth Mountain Clinic to serve the health care needs of Cook County.  Earlier in 2019, the Clinic took over the Family Home Visiting (FHV) program from Cook County. Hannah Miller (MSN, RN, PHN) was hired by the clinic to take over the FHV program, as well as to run the Women Infants Children (WIC) nutrition program that the clinic has run for the county for many years. By bringing the FHV program into the clinic, there were immediate gains due to the close working relationship between doctors, nurses and county programs.

“The medication-assisted opioid treatment program, the Family Home Visiting program, expanded medical and behavior health telemedicine accessibility, and community health care education and outreach show our commitment to providing the best quality healthcare for Cook County,” said CEO Katherine Surbaugh. 

“A recent example of community outreach was a video produced by the Clinic that featured Dr. Farchmin and Dr. Hansen addressing questions that teenagers might have about their health and the privacy of their health information”, said Surbaugh.  The video was posted on the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic website, with local media and on social media sites.

Minnesota’s 17 Community Health Centers now serve nearly 200-thousand low-income Minnesotans in medically underserved areas, and function as a vital component of Minnesota’s health care safety net, providing comprehensive primary and preventive care to people who would otherwise lack access to these services. This represents a record high and 5th straight year of patient growth.

Sawtooth Mountain Clinic is joining the nearly 1,400 other federally qualified Community Health Centers who are celebrating National Community Health Center week.  These are sixteen Community Health Centers in Minnesota serving urban, suburban and rural communities. 

“Unfortunately, once again federal government funding for Community Health Centers is facing expiration on September 30 unless Congress acts,” said Plourde, “I encourage community members in Cook County to reach out to their elected representatives to express your support for funding federally qualified Community Health Centers”.

“Minnesota’s Community Health Centers have enjoyed passionate societal and bi-partisan support because of our four-fold focus on ensuring access to primary health care services, improving health outcomes and the wellness of communities and patients throughout the state, delivering a trusting relationship with patients, and lowering health care spending by emphasizing primary care over unnecessary emergency room use and hospitalizations,” said Jonathan Watson, CEO, Minnesota Association of Community Health Centers. “We hope Congress will continue to recognize the benefits CHCs have provided across the U.S. over the past five decades and pass a long-term spending bill that secures their viability and the access to care that 28 million people in America depend upon.”

Over the years, Sawtooth Mountain Clinic has grown to include six full-time physicians and one nurse practitioner. Along with a highly professional staff of nurses, behavioral health practitioners, medical record and office personnel, and administrative staff, these seven providers care for patients with health care needs ranging from prenatal to palliative. 

Supplemented by a robust Outreach and Community Health Program, the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic also offers services such as blood pressure screenings, foot care and flu shot clinics, childbirth education, and the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program.

After 40 years of service to the people of Cook County, Sawtooth Mountain Clinic remains dedicated to the continuation of personal, compassionate, high-quality health care for all, regardless of their ability to pay.  Sawtooth Mountain Clinic is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.  The Clinic first opened its doors, as a federally qualified health clinic in June 1979.  

The infographic in the attached PDF shows some of the positive healthcare and economic impact Sawtooth Mountain Clinic makes in Cook County.


Sue Nordman
Sawtooth Mountain Clinic

Watch Drs. Hansen and Farchmin address teenagers health questions here

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