One more strategy to bridge insurance gaps
With $650,000 in grant funding scheduled to be in hand by Dec. 1, the new Community Health Center is expected to open about April 1, according to Renea Seagren, interim executive director.
Seagren said the 'lead time' before the actual grant award should allow adequate preparations for the clinic which will be located in the Dierwechter Clinic, owned by Dr. Ronald Dierwechter of Storm Lake. Seagren said the clinic will hire staff when grant funding is in hand.
Seagren said the first order on the agenda is to establish a board of directors, 51 percent of which must be comprised of users of the clinic. She said the Iowa-Nebraska Primary Care Association, which helped write the grant, will also help with follow-through to ensure that all grant requirements are met.
"There's no other health system component that I know of that has such a structure," as the clinic board of directors will have, Seagren said. The board will determine services to be offered.
At this stage, Seagren said primary and preventive care will be the focus of the clinic.
Dental services will not be offered immediately. Rather, the board will determine when and how dental services will be implemented.
The $650,000 yearly grant, administered through the Department of health and Human Services Bureau of Primary Care, will be funded yearly with a review at the end of three years, Seagren said. She said making up the difference in the $1.3-million annual operating costs will be patient insurance, Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements, and a sliding fee payment schedule.
Seagren said Buena Vista and Sac Counties are the primary counties named in the grant. She expects contiguous counties will also be served. "The clinic is open to anyone," Seagren said. "We'll serve whoever comes in the door."
Seagren said staff will include a physician; nurse practitioner; one or two nurses; and three office staff including an interpreter, billing staff, and receptionist.
Seagren said the Community Health Center "will create a medical home for people that use the emergency room for primary care," Seagren said. "It provides continuity of care, helping a patient that has chronic health problems."
Seagren said the board may elect to participate in the federal 340B drug program which helps patients access lower-cost medications.
Preventive care will be a big part of the clinic's mission, Seagren said. "It's a large part of community health centers," Seagren said. "We're trying to prevent those serious complications of chronic illnesses from occurring."
Seagren hopes to hold health fair screenings to help identify undiagnosed illnesses. The Community Health Center will provide sustainability for an Iowa Department of Public Health and Wellmark Foundation cervical cancer awareness grant.
Seagren said Project Export from the University of Northern Iowa was a staunch supporter of the clinic in its letters of support it wrote in favor of the grant. "They were very excited about the possibility that we might get this," Seagren said.
Nurses at the Community Health Center will be able to help coordinate patient care and services such as transportation. Health education programs will help reduce barriers to access of care, Seagren said, noting that those barriers include language, culture, transportation, and finances.
Seagren, who plans on visiting another Community Health Center in the near future to see firsthand how it operates, said the Community Health Center should help significantly to improve overall health care in Storm Lake.
"It's one more strategy in dealing with the issues of the uninsured," Seagren said.