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Health needs in Lawrence County area assessed

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Lawrence County residents who are uninsured may be able to receive healthcare assistance through a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) in Missouri.

The Steering Committee for Lawrence County's unmet health needs, which was headed by Access Family Care's Chief Executive Officer Don McBride, held three meetings on Aug. 27 to discuss healthcare needs with physicans, community leaders and citizens of Lawrence County.

McBride said he was approached two years ago by residents about providing a healthcare facility for the uninsured and poor in Lawrence County like the ones Access currently operates in Cassville, Anderson and Joplin.

"We are trying to determine if additional healthcare services are needed in this area and if there is a need to develop a community health center in Lawrence County," said McBride.

According to McBride, the physicans who attended the meeting said they were glad to see someone trying to initiate healthcare in the Lawrence County area.

The second meeting, which consisted of legislators and community leaders, provided a lot of feedback from attendees.

Health challenges that were noted during the meeting included lack of transportation, no medical insurance, physicans not accepting new patients and the inability to afford medications.

An increase in need for help was also noted due to a new phase of underserved citizens emerging as a result of loss of employment and loss of insurance coverage.

McBride said the third meeting, which was held for Lawrence County citizens also produced good discussion among attendees.

"One citizen was a farmer representing her husband," said McBride. "As self-employeed older adults, the cost for health insurance was out of reach for them, so they go without.

"She was excited to find out that she and her husband could receive services through our Joplin Clinic at possible discounts based on their household income," McBride said.

McBride said that Access Family Care's strategic plan includes expanding clinic services into Barton and Lawrence counties by May 2010.

As a FQHC, Access Family Care receives federal grant funding from the Bureau of Primary Health Care, which enables the organization to provide a sliding fee discount for patients who demonstrate economic need at their clinics.

On June 30, Senator Claire McCaskill announced that 20 Missouri healthcare facilities received federal grant money through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's (ARRA) Capital Improvement Program (CIP). Of the $17,143,180 allotted, Access Family Care received $635,140.

Community health centers, such as Access Family Care, are local, non-profit, community-owned healthcare providers serving low income and medically underserved communities.

Access Family Care is headquartered in Neosho.

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