What a difference a year makes: During the last 12 months, a partnership between Mercy and Missouri State University (MSU) has helped nearly 750 people gain access to health care in the Ozarks, through 3,296 office visits.
The MSU Care Clinic, located inside the O’Reilly Clinical Health Sciences Center at 640 E. Cherry St., opened on Oct. 20, 2015. Since then, it has provided free health care to low-income, uninsured adults aged 18 to 64 who are not eligible for Medicare or Medicaid.
“The clinic just about saved my life,” said patient Anne Cravens, 55, who is diabetic, asthmatic and has no insurance. She synced up with the primary care clinic in January. “Before, I’d wait until I was so sick that I had one foot in the grave. Then I’d have to go to the emergency room.”
The clinic’s main goal has been to break that cycle.
“Patients have been so grateful to find out they’ll avoid the ER,” said registered nurse and case manager Elisa Coonrod. “We’re focusing on health education, and even the smallest changes in behavior – from nutrition and hydration to just resting – are making a big impact down the road.”
Since it opened, clinic personnel have also assisted 142 people transition to Medicaid coverage.
The MSU Care Clinic offers the following services: physical exams; blood tests; some x-rays, education to patients about their health conditions; referrals to specific medical specialties; including mental health services; referrals to the MSU Physical Therapy Clinic; and medications for treatment of chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and asthma.
During the year, 17,110 prescriptions have been filled at MSU Care Clinic, which totals approximately one million dollars’ worth of medications. This major expense was covered by generous donations from Mercy's Force for Good, as well as private individuals, with assistance provided by the Dispensary of Hope and the Community Medication Assistance Program.
Community partnerships have made essential contributions to the success of MSU Care, including much-needed mental health services provided by Burrell Behavioral Health and the Ozarks Counseling Center. In addition, a large number of physicians from both Mercy and Cox health systems have volunteered to provide specialty medical care for MSU Care patients. Recently, optometrists have begun providing free eye examinations and prescriptions for vision-correcting glasses.
“They’ve taken such good care of me,” Cravens said. “I’m much healthier now and I have fewer diabetic wounds and infections. They also taught me about better nutrition and I now have the medication I need, too.”
“It’s so rewarding, not only to see our patients getting healthier, but to know that we’ve been making a big impact,” Coonrod said.
The MSU Care Clinic also offers hands-on training for students in health sciences degree programs at MSU. In the past year, students have contributed more than 2,800 patient care hours.
“We’re going to need more medical providers in this country,” Cravens said. “I think it’s good they have a hands-on place to learn. It’s going to make them even better.”
To make an appointment, call 417-837-2270. The clinic is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday.