Community Clinic expands amid growing need

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 49 views 

Community Clinic of Northwest Arkansas provides primary health care to about 30,000 residents a year and the need for their services continues to escalate.

“We estimate there are roughly 90,000 folks in this region without health insurance and even with the Affordable Health Care Act mandate we think anywhere from 25% to 30% will postpone sign-up for the first two years,” said Kathy Grisham, executive director.

With that, she said Community Clinic is preparing for more patients between 2014 and 2015.

On Monday, (Aug. 12) the nonprofit held an open house showcasing a new 4,000 square-foot expansion to its health clinic in Rogers, aimed to address the growing demand for its services.

The nonprofit runs five medical clinics in Northwest Arkansas, in Springdale, Siloam Springs and Rogers. There are also two in-school clinics — one at Jones Elementary in Springdale and Owl Creek Elementary in Fayetteville.

Grisham said the clinic in Rogers is the largest and busiest of all the locations, accounting for 37% of all the overall visits in 2012. The Rogers center just added 17 exam rooms, two behavioral health offices, x-ray lab and completed restroom renovations to help meet the growing need. The x-ray lab is a new service which cost the nonprofit $90,000 to add.

She said since 2008 Community Clinic has experienced explosive growth and increasing demand for its full range of health care services. The patient count has grown 102% in the past five years and they are bracing for more growth as a result of the Affordable Care Act as the private insurance option is adopted.

About 40% of the patients at Community Clinic are uninsured and 90% of the client base has a household income under 200% of the federal poverty level. A small percentage of them have commercial insurance and the rest has Medicare.

Grisham said the clinic is a sustainable model that has been in operation and expanding since 1994. As a nonprofit, the Community Clinic receives $600,000 in annual funding from a federal grant that is renewed every three years with annual filing updates. But, that accounts for only 15% of Community Clinic’s annual budget, Grisham said.

The Community Clinic services are not free, and Grisham said patients that fall under the income guidelines pay reduced charges on a sliding scale. An individual earning less than $22,980 would pay $20 per visit and that includes labs and x-rays. For a family four the income could be $47,100 to get that reduced charge.

Last year Community Clinic logged 101,000 visits from its growing patient base, which included those seeking prenatal care, pediatric, family health and women’s health services.

Bob Bastian, former board member of Community Clinic, said he remembers walking the empty halls of emergency room facility at St. Mary’s Hospital just after the new hospital was completed.

“Today that old emergency room has been transformed into a thriving center for preventive health care, which has been important in Rogers since the Popular Street Clinic opened 20 years ago. Back then that small center was open just one night a week and it was staffed by volunteers to ensure those who needed heath care had access. There have been a lot of transformations since then, Bastian said during Monday’s open house.

Grisham said Community Clinic employs a staff of 210, and more than half of them are multilingual.

“In the early days we used volunteers, but the need continued to grow and now we employ the doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses and other health professionals who work for the Community Clinic on a full-time basis,” she said.

The clinic is a one-stop health resource for the entire family.

“We treat families, maybe the dad has insurance from his job, but can’t afford to cover the whole family. If they meet the income requirements we can treat them all with preventative and chronic care situations and they can pay the lower prices,” Grisham said.

The Community Clinic’s goal is the help its patients access affordable health care, and avoid the costlier services such as emergency room and hospitalizations, while also promoting quality of life.

She said the Community Clinic continues to fulfill the critical role as the region’s largest health safety net.

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