A Council Bluffs building that once housed a Curves exercise studio is offering a different way for people to be healthy.
Pottawattamie County opened a public health clinic at 600 S. Fourth St., offering free and confidential sexually transmitted disease/infection testing and treatments, including HIV testing and referrals. The clinic also offers immunizations services, flu shots and other vaccines.
Disease investigations in the county are based out of the clinic, as well.
“It’s for anyone in the county,” said Maria Sieck, county public health administrator, about the free clinic. “It’s state- and grant-funded. So all of it is a partnership with the state.”
Sieck explained that the STD clinic includes testing for gonorrhea, chlamydia, HIV, HCV, syphilis and, in some cases, hepatitis C. The clinic educates and refers patients to the PrEP program — (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) — to help prevent people from contracting HIV if exposed to the virus and also provides free condoms.
“There are always requirements for who you can and can’t test,” she said.
The clinic provides childhood immunizations — age 18 and younger — through the Vaccines For Children program for children on Medicaid, uninsured, under-insured, and American Indian/Alaskan native, Sieck said.
Linda McQuinn, disease prevention specialist with the Iowa Department of Public Health, has her regional office at the clinic. McQuinn works with the public and partner organizations for disease prevention and control, education, counseling and case management for issues with chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV/AIDS, and hepatitis C, Sieck said. McQuinn also refers to the clinic for free testing, treatment and referral on these STDs and provides additional counseling and education to the public.
The clinic also investigates communicable diseases to help prevent outbreaks, a part of which is auditing all county schools for current student immunizations.
In July the county took over public health duties in Council Bluffs after the city dissolved its Public Health Department. Council Bluffs was the last city in the state with such a department, as state law had changed to dictate counties handle public health.
So in large part, the services offered at the county clinic include an expansion of services the county already provided and put everything under one roof — which hadn’t been the case previously, Sieck said.
“The services have been there, but now they’re in one location,” she said.
Clinic staff includes Sieck and three nurses.
Matt Wyant, director of the county Planning Department, which houses the Public Health Department, said the county and city worked together during the transition, crediting Mayor Matt Walsh and Chief of Staff Wendy Schultz.
“The mayor and Wendy have been great to work with through this process, it really felt like a good county/city partnership as we overcame all of the challenges that come with a transition of services like this” Wyant said. “A lot of the city programs had to be reworked to ensure we were meeting state code and grant expectations moving forward which makes the programs stronger moving forward.
“With the partnerships being formed now and extended scope of the County residents will start to see a bigger push toward improving the public health rating of the County. This new centralized approach opens the door to start new collaborations for both rural and urban health issues.”
Sieck mentioned the county ranked 90th of 99 in the most recent University of Wisconsin Health Outcomes study, a number that needs improvement.
“We want to not only make our community a better place to live but our people healthier, with better well-being,” Sieck said.