Arcata’s New Open Door Well being Middle Will Open This Fall, Changing the Two Previous Clinics in City | Misplaced Coast Outpost

Rendering of the front of the new Open Door health center in Arcata | Image from Open Door Community Health


Arcata’s new Open Door Community Health Center — the big old building under construction on the corner of Foster and Sunset — is almost complete and, if all goes according to plan, should open its doors to patients this fall.

Open Door announced in the summer of 2019 plans for the project to open by 2022. But when COVID 2020 struck, the project had to be postponed. The crew eventually broke ground in 2021, and Cheyenne Spetzler, Open Door’s senior vice president of development, told Outpost that development has stayed pretty much on schedule since then.

“I just have to say that Pacific Builders, these people are my heroes,” Spetzler said in a telephone interview on Monday afternoon. “Because any time there’s a problem, they just find a way to keep moving.”

At this point, almost all of the most time-consuming infrastructure—the plumbing, electrical, and heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC)—was installed, and the sheetrock was brought in as well. Spetzler said that one of the main delays in construction was the installation of the windows due to supply chain issues. The crews are still waiting for the windows, which will be delivered around four months late. But Spetzler said that despite the delay, the project’s schedule was not greatly impacted.

The only potential delay that worries Spetzler slightly concerns licensing by the California Department of Health and Human Services. Once the building is complete and passes inspection, Open Door has to turn in its license package, and it sometimes takes months for the state to process it. If everything goes smoothly, Spetzler assumes that the facility will open its doors in October.

To operate the new clinic, operations from the two existing Open Door centers in Arcata – Humboldt Open Door on 10th Street and NorthCountry Clinic on 18th Street – will be transferred to the new facility and the other two locations will be closed. Spetzler said that merging the two clinics will make things more streamlined for both Open Door staff and patients, who often have to go back and forth between clinics. Also, these two buildings were very old and if something catastrophic should happen, the Arcata clinic has no other place to offer services.

The health center building currently under construction as seen from Foster

“The reason for the new building is the precarious nature of the old facilities in which we operate,” said Spetzler. “None of the buildings were ever intended as a clinic. And we did what we could to make them clinics, with lots of exam rooms and funky offices and all. But there were two front desks, two labs, two medical records departments, and two call departments…. It’s not efficient.”

Due to the more efficient operation, the new facility will require fewer staff than the two clinics. But that doesn’t mean there will be layoffs. Open Door has a fairly high turnover rate in some HR departments and often works with staff shortages. Spetzler said any employees at the two Arcata clinics not housed at the new facility will likely be able to transfer to one of Open Door’s other locations in the county.

The new building is much larger than the existing Arcata locations, totaling 34,000 square feet, which is 1,000 square feet larger than the two clinics combined. The space will house 34 examination rooms, one more than the other clinics combined. With a little more space, new facilities and equipment, and a more efficient workflow, the new clinic should be able to accommodate an increased number of patients and annual visits. However, the difference is not huge. Open Door estimates the new clinic will be able to accommodate approximately 14,000 patients, compared to 13,396 currently treated at Arcata Clinics. Visits are also expected to increase from 43,306 to 44,000 per year.

If you’re an open-door patient, you may already know that parking can be a problem at the other Arcata clinics, as each only has 10 on-site parking spaces. The new clinic has almost 100 parking spaces, some with charging stations for electric vehicles, said Spetzler.

Of course, as with all new developments in Arcata, the city wants the facility to discourage driving and encourage other modes of transportation. Spetzler said employees are being offered incentives to use other modes of transportation, including free bus tickets and possibly cash rewards if they don’t drive their cars.

Another feature of the new clinic is a staff gym with showers and changing rooms. Spetzler said that’s a request from many employees so they don’t have to leave the building to train. The availability of showers and changing rooms will also help encourage employees to cycle to work if they are able, as they can clean up and change into work clothes upon arrival.

The new building is also equipped with solar panels and will have backup generators. This means the clinic can serve as an emergency center during major power outages, providing community members with a place to charge their devices, get clean water refills, etc.

Though most of the services offered by the clinic will remain the same, Spetzler said there will be an expansion in behavioral health care, including things like mental health and drug use counseling. Thanks to some funding provided by the Vesper Society of San Francisco, Spetzler said Open Door will focus on offering more of these services, especially for families.

Spetzler said Open Door is also working with the new clinic to expand other services and programs, such as nurse residencies, in the future. She is very excited about the opening of the new clinic and would like to thank the city of Arcata and the community for their support.

“We had these neighborhood meetings and we definitely listened to what the neighbors wanted and we had almost no complaints,” Spetzler said. “There’s actually been a pretty impressive lack of complaints from the neighborhood considering we’re building this huge thing.”



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