OPINION

Impacting access to affordable healthcare: Primary Health Care

Staff Writer
Story City Herald
Impacting access to affordable healthcare: Primary Health Care

—by Sara Wilson, UWSC Marketing Director

Earlier last month, we introduced United Way’s health focus, and we reiterated how important access to affordable healthcare is for our community. Over the next few weeks, this column is focusing on what United Way of Story County (UWSC) and partners are doing to ensure Story County has access to essential services for healthy lives.

Last fall, the Board of Directors at UWSC approved a grant request to assist Primary Health Care, Inc. (PHC) in bringing a federally qualified health center to Story County. The grant, which was awarded for $100,000, was to be used to establish a nonprofit community health center to serve Story County residents who are uninsured, underinsured, and/or underserved.

The clinic, operated by PHC, opened in January of this year at its current location on Duff Avenue across from the hospital. PHC is increasing access to a spectrum of primary care services (family practice, pediatrics, OB, mental health, oral medicine, pharmacy, lab and x-ray). PHC, along with various community partners, is helping patients address some of the most common barriers to care by providing services including transportation, interpretation, translation, patient education and other supportive services. PHC employs physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, a family support worker, benefits specialist and behavioral health consultant, as well as support staff to manage and assure the delivery of affordable, quality health care.

Discussions to bring the program to Story County began in 2008 when Mary Greeley Medical Center (MGMC) received a planning grant to investigate the feasibility of bringing a federally qualified health center to Story County. The Planning Committee agreed to pursue it and asked PHC to operate the site. As a result, PHC submitted an initial grant request to Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) in 2010, which was not funded. In April 2013, the application was resubmitted, and funding was approved in September 2013.

Grant funding was possible because of the needs identified in Story County. Story County has an 18.7 percent rate of poverty compared to 11.5 percent in the state of Iowa, more than 23,000 residents in Story County have incomes below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level and Story County has a low income Health Provider Shortage Area designation for primary health care (not enough providers to care for the low income population in Story County).

In addition to HRSA and UWSC, financial commitments have been made from First National Bank, MGMC, McFarland Clinic and Story County Community Foundation. After a year in its current location, PHC will be expanding and moving to its permanent location at 3510 Lincoln Way in December. The project is costing more than $600,000 for construction and equipment. Operational expenses aren’t included in the cost of the project as they are being covered by the HRSA grant ($650,000) and patient collections.

In addition to health, UWSC also focuses on education and income – the three building blocks for a good quality of life. We know we can’t do it alone, so we recruit people and organizations who bring passion, expertise and resources to make positive change. We invite you to be a part of the change. You can give, you can advocate and you can volunteer. That’s what it means to LIVE UNITED.