Gretchen Moen remembers the differences between the work she found in pediatrics and her father’s work as a small town general practitioner.

Moen grew up in Nashwauk, and her father would go on rounds in Hibbing. The clinic was in the lower level of their home and sometimes patients stopped by just to say hi.

“They didn’t always come there because they were sick or had a reason,” she remembers.

A little over two decades ago, beginning her nursing career, Moen became increasingly aware of practices she said prioritized profits over patients.

She knew she wanted to do something different.

Today, Moen is the clinical director of the Dakota Child and Family Clinic in Burnsville — a clinic she founded around 20 years ago to bring high-quality care to patients, regardless of their ability to pay.

The nonprofit clinic’s work focuses on delivering primary care with a holistic approach, addressing the social determinants of health that underpin many physical aliments.

“We listen and we don’t just try to solve the problem at hand — we’ll look at the whole picture,” Moen said.

‘No judgement’

At the clinic, care is provided by nurse practitioners and available to people of all ages from birth through end-of-life.

In addition to primary care services, the clinic offers a host of support groups and opportunities to connect with community members and additional resources.

The clinic accepts most forms of health insurance and offers a sliding fee based on federal poverty guidelines. However, patients are not turned away if they cannot pay for services.

Heather Tidd, the Dakota Child and Family Clinic’s executive director, became connected to the clinic’s community while raising her own children with physical and mental health disabilities.

“I fully believe that my kids are doing so well in life because of the care we had,” Tidd said.

Today, around 10% of the clinic’s patients are on the autism spectrum and around 70% of patients live with a mental health disorder, according to Tidd.

The clinic also aims to serve other populations that historically face discrimination in medical settings, with a focus towards people of color and members of the LGBTQ community.

“I just love having a place that just loves every patient as they are,” Tidd said.

Moen said the clinic continues to expand it’s outreach efforts in hopes of connecting everyone with high-quality healthcare.

“We accept you where you’re at,” Moen said. “No judgement.”

Local partnerships

The Burnsville-Eagan-Savage District is one of several local districts that’ve relied on Dakota Child and Family Clinic throughout the challenges of the pandemic.

COVID-19 testing presented a major challenge for school health offices, which were already over-burdened and short-staffed under the strain of the pandemic.

“We were looking for someone that could do testing for our students when we were sending them home sick,” said Bernie Bien, the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage District’s lead school nurse.

Bien reached out to a pharmacy, but received no response. She then got in touch with Dakota Child and Family Clinic.

Together, they created a new vision of offering specific appointments for students on an as-needed basis.

Through the partnership, the school health office is able to schedule a clinic appointment for district students, eliminating a lot of hassle and complexity for families dealing with symptoms or a positive case.

“When we started the partnership, there was no other partnership like this between a school district and a clinic,” Bien said, adding other districts have since established similar partnerships with the clinic.

“They are an amazing clinic, they are truly public health focused,” she said.