This year, Open Cities celebrates 50 years of community service

Open Cities Health Clinics is a healthcare organization that has been around for 50 years, located in St. Paul and led by Jim Platten, its CEO/executive director for nearly three years now. Platten says, “I love everything about [this position]. I love the community. We have a phenomenal staff.

“We have great people who are really passionate about this work. It is a tough job. But, what makes this job great is the people I work with. We are very blessed to have our team. I think one of the unique things that I am very proud of is we have a consummate medical or healthcare home.”

Platten has a background in health care where he has served “my entire career. I worked in clinical social work in my early career, and for the last 25 years in ambulatory (outpatient) administration. Most recently, prior to coming to Open Cities, I worked in the Fairview Health System overseeing various ambulatory care clinic operations.”

When the opportunity came up to lead the clinic, Platten says, “I found it to be a great opportunity to come back to my hometown. I was born and raised in St. Paul, and I have lived my whole life in St. Paul except for a few years when I was over in Wisconsin. I saw this as an opportunity to come back to the city that I was raised in and be able to participate in the community clinics, because that is a big part of what health care is about.”

Open Cities provides many services. Platten calls the clinic “a true healthcare home. We provide medical, dental, optical, chiropractic and behavioral health services, all under one roof. We have two locations.” They have recently re-opened their Rice Street clinic within the last year. They also have a Dunlap location.

Open Cities began operations 50 years ago. Originally, it was called Model Cities. The clinic was church-based and was started by a number of volunteers back in the 1960s. Model Cities provided a number of services at clinics in the St. Paul area — Rondo, Frogtown, and the Summit and University area.

Around 2000, Model Cities and Open Cities took on two separate names to provide services, Open Cities becoming the health clinic and Model Cities continuing to provide a lot of the community and housing services. Platten added, “Open Cities and Model Cities continued their robust history, and now in 2017 we are celebrating our 50 year anniversary.”

To celebrate being around for a half century, Open Cities is in the planning stages of a walk/run event with Model Cities during the summer. There will also be a special event during the race to celebrate the reopening of the Open Cities North End clinic.

Finally, there will be a gala this fall to celebrate 50 years of Open Cities being around as a healthcare provider. Platten told MSR, “This is going to be very exciting.”

Regarding the future of Open Cities, Platten said, “Right now, there is a lot of uncertainty about what is going on with healthcare, with the political processes and so forth. But what we do know is that it has always been that Open Cities will continue to provide health care to our communities. That includes working with our North End community at the Rice Street location  [as well as] the Summit University, Rice Street and the Frogtown neighborhoods.

“We are passionately committed to growing our services and expanding our services into the community. We want to be responsive to the community, whether it is diabetes care, or vascular care, or dealing with depression or other life changes and challenges as we go forward. We are going to continue to develop high-quality care.”

Open Cities recently lost a star physician of their clinics. Dr. Fred Lewis was the medical director at Open Cities at various times in his career. He passed at the age of 64 after a very brief battle with cancer.

“We are very saddened by that loss,” said Platten. “In his honor, we are going to continue to fight for the health of our communities, in his name and in his legacy and in his tradition. He was a provider at Open Cities for over 30 years, and we are not going to let that tradition pass just because of his passing. We are going to continue to make a way because of him.”

Open Cities prides itself on providing many services to many people. “Our mission statement is very simple,” Platten said. “We want to provide culturally competent primary and united healthcare to all people throughout the Twin Cities metro area.

“We provide [healthcare services] to a number of our patients [who do not speak] English as their first language. We have lots of people from lots of [various] parts of the world. But, we also serve a lot of people that were born and raised right here in St. Paul. We have a large Hmong population. We have a large Korean population. We serve a lot of the African Americans. We also serve a lot of people from Nigeria and Somalia. We have a wide range of people we care for and serve.”


For more information about the Open Cities Health Clinics, visit

This article is sponsored by a grant from the Medtronic Foundation.

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