Open Door was founded in 1971, with a vision of providing high quality health care and health education to a rural, underserved part of California, at a time when the region suffered from a shortage of access to health care services.
Open Door was born from the efforts of local community leaders and volunteers in Arcata. The first clinic—the Humboldt Open Door Clinic—operated on the site of a former bank, until it could afford to move to a larger location.
Herrmann Spetzler became Open Door’s Chief Executive Officer in 1977, building on the clinic’s early volunteer-driven programs, activism, and optimism, and leading the organization through turmoil, adaptation, and growth, until his unexpected death in 2018. Throughout his lifetime of leadership, Herrmann Spetzler championed the cause of community and rural healthcare at the State and Federal levels.
Herrmann, along with his wife and Open Door’s Chief Operations Officer, Cheyenne Spetzler, initiated and cultivated innovative programs and initiatives at Open Door and beyond, in service of lowering barriers and increasing access for patients to health care services. Programs such as Open Door’s Nurse Practitioner and Family Medicine residency programs, mobile health services, patient navigation services, and a telehealth-focused health center—of particular benefit to rural communities, where specialty care can be limited—are a testament to their vision.
One initiative that embodies Open Door’s vision of integrating health services is Open Door’s Health and Wellness Gardens. Staff and volunteers maintain community gardens at health centers throughout Humboldt and Del Norte counties, which are both sites of learning and provide seasonal produce for patients, for distribution at the health centers. Programs like this, along with initiatives such as the food pantries at all Open Door health centers, where patients and community members can get nutritious food items, contribute to county and community efforts to combat food insecurity.
From its humble beginnings in 1971, as a volunteer-run clinic in Arcata, Open Door now has over 700 employees and operates a network of twelve community health centers and clinics—across an area larger than the state of Connecticut—serving over 60,000 of our “friends, family, and neighbors.”
Fifty years on Open Door has grown and changed, but its mission remains the same—to provide “quality medical, dental, and behavioral health services, and education to all, regardless of financial, geographic, or social barriers.”