Upgraded Plankinton health center and dental clinic brings 'great convenience' under one roof

Apr. 3—PLANKINTON, S.D. — Access to quality health care is not always a given in rural communities. But the town of Plankinton is one step further in the mission to provide its rural residents with access to quality, affordable primary health care services.

The recently renovated and expanded Horizon Aurora County Community Health Center and Dental Clinic was finished in December. The clinic held a ribbon cutting and open house on March 12.

"This project was done in phases and took a little longer than we had anticipated but it is done and we are now able to better serve the people of Plankinton," said Horizon Health Care CEO Wade Erickson.

Construction started in 2022 on a nearly 5,500 square-foot expansion to the existing medical center that cost $2.5 million to upgrade. The new space includes six medical rooms, a patient intake room, IV room, procedure room and an X-ray room. The original facility was then gutted and renovated to become a full-time dental center, complete with six dental exam rooms.

With the expansion comes the ability to go from offering part-time dental care two days a week to full-time. Horizon is seeking to hire a full-time dentist in addition to an already part-time dental hygienist. Space was also created to house a Lewis Drug Pharmacy with a full-time pharmacy technician who is able to fill medication prescriptions in-house versus having medications couriered in nightly from Mitchell.

"Having our medical, dental and pharmacy under one roof really makes for a great convenience to our patients," said Horizon certified nurse practioner Alyssa Hofer.

Hofer has been with Horizon since 2021 at which time she began only as a part-time employee. When the medical clinic expanded in phase one of the project and opened its doors to the addition last year, Hofer had the chance to come on board full-time. "I'm excited for all that we have to offer now."

The Aurora County Community Health Center opened its doors in 1978, offering medical, dental and mental health services. It moved to its current facility in 1992.

And since then, the clinic has seen nothing but growth, increasing over the past decade the number of patients who are serviced by the facility.

"The need for rural health care has grown a lot over the years," Erickson said. "And it's my number one goal to ensure the residents in these rural areas have access to health care close to home."

Alongside the renovation project, the Horizon Health Foundation held a "Growth is on the Horizon" naming campaign. As a tax-exempt, non-profit corporation, the Foundation works to support and help sustain Horizon Health Care's mission of ensuring rural health care access to those in need. Their goal is to create awareness of the financial needs of Horizon Health Care and to encourage gift support and build relations with individuals and businesses who also believe in the need to bring quality, affordable health care to rural areas.

The naming campaign allowed donors to make a gift in the honor or memory of a loved one. There were opportunities to name rooms, as well as help offset the cost of needed medical and dental equipment. That part of the campaign has been fulfilled, said Tracy Pardy, Horizon Health Foundation executive director. Those wishing to contiribute still have opportunities to name rooms at the building. Naming rights are etched on a plate that are attached to the respective room. One room, for example, is named for Farmers and Merchants State Bank in memory of the bank's owner Hershell Page.

All donations of $100 or more are included in the donor wall in the waiting room of the clinic. The wall is an art piece depicting the different levels of giving and who invested at each level. As more donors come forward, the piece will be added to.

Based in Howard, South Dakota, Horizon Health Care has been providing medical, dental and behavioral health care to rural communities in South Dakota for 45 years. They have 31 clinic locations across the state and are present in 22 communities.

"This project has been huge for Plankinton. It would be huge for any small town," Erickson said. "We need to sustain our rural communities. The people in these towns shouldn't have to sacrifice health care just because of where they choose to live."