The exam room at Health Equity Alliance's new triage clinic. Credit: Courtesy of Health Equity Alliance

Health Equity Alliance, a Bangor health organization that serves marginalized communities, will add a new clinical service aimed at bridging its clients’ path into the greater health care system.

Starting this week, the social justice-oriented health organization will begin offering a twice-weekly “triage” clinic providing medical advice and basic treatment to its clientele: people who use drugs, belong to the LGBT community or who have HIV/AIDS, said Andrea Littlefield, HEAL’s director of development and communications.

Socially marginalized groups have historically faced barriers to proper health care, in large part because they’ve lacked health insurance or the money to pay for care, Littlefield said. And as was true for AIDS patients at the height of the 1980s epidemic, drug users today don’t have access to adequate treatment options, she said.

Clients also say that once they’ve entered the health care system, they often feel further disenfranchised because doctors can perpetuate the stigmas that posed barriers to receiving proper care in the first place, Littlefield said.

“We were certainly hearing from folks that they didn’t feel comfortable accessing certain medical care,” Littlefield said, especially people who use drugs.

That’s why the primary motivation behind the new clinic is to create a “warm handoff” between clients and vetted practitioners whose philosophy aligns with HEAL’s, Littlefield said.

“We really try to treat people will dignity and respect when they come into our office,” Littlefield said.

The clinic will provide a limited set of treatment options most needed by HEAL’s clientele: HIV and hepatitis testing, tests for sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy tests, basic wound care, basic foot care (often needed by at-risk diabetic clients), assistance with prescription programs for low-cost medications and basic medical advice and guidance.

It’s likely clients will be referred to the clinic when they come in to use the organizations slate of other services, Littlefield said, who noted the weekly schedule hasn’t yet been finalized.

The organization operates the region’s only syringe exchange, which distributes an average of 6,000 clean needles a week, she said. It also offers a range of case management services, runs a food pantry and gives away free Narcan, the opioid overdose-reversal antidote, to anyone who asks.

The clinic — which is still looking for volunteer doctors and nurse practitioners — wouldn’t be possible had the organization not tripled its space during a recent move from Pine Street to Hancock Street at the beginning of this month, Littlefield said.

An open house for the new space is scheduled for June 4, at 304 Hancock St., Suite 3B.

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Callie Ferguson

Callie Ferguson is an investigative reporter for the Bangor Daily News. She writes about criminal justice, police and housing.