Dr. Bridget McCandless grinned from ear to ear Monday evening when an Independence City Council member asked what the city could do to further help the Shared Care Free Clinic.
If you’d asked McCandless that question a year ago, she said, her reply would have been improved public transit access to the clinic at 17611 E. U.S. 24. But that wish came true this summer with improved routes through FirstTransit.
“It has made transportation much, much easier for patients,” McCandless told the council Monday. As co-founder of the clinic, McCandless works part-time as the clinic’s medical director. “Now, it’s still hard for them to home if they have evening services because needless to say, they’re not leaving the clinic until 8:30 or 9 o’clock at night and the buses stop running by then, but for our daytime services, they have much, much better access.”
Now in its 12th year, the Shared Care Free Clinic continues to meet the needs of the uninsured who have a chronic disease, such as diabetes. The clinic serves adults who are at 200 percent or below of the federal poverty level and who have no health insurance, including those without Medicare or Medicaid.
Recently, Shared Care Free Clinic expanded its services to include mental health care. Through a contract with Drumm Farm, a counselor travels to the clinic to provide mental health patient care.
“I’m only embarrassed to tell you it took us this long to add mental health services because as you know, poverty and depression and poverty and anxiety run together,” McCandless said. “It’s not surprising that 40 percent of our patients carry the diagnosis of one of those.”
Shared Care Free Clinic is meant to establish long-term relationships with its patients, rather than just provide them with a prescription in a day’s time, McCandless said. The clinic also builds many public and private partnerships with other health-related organizations, such as Centerpoint Medical Center paying for labs and rent and the Independence Health Department providing smoking cessation classes. This allows the clinic to stretch $1 of investment into $5 of goods and services.
“There are a lot of pieces that make the clinic go,” McCandless said. “I always talk about it like Stone Soup. Everybody brings a little something, and I provide the pot, and in the end, you have this fabulous comprehensive care for patients who really need it.”
At-Large Council Member Jim Schultz asked what the clinic needs from the community and from council members for its success. McCandless said the city has done a good job of referring people in need to the clinic.
“Having you and other people know exactly what we’re good at is helpful,” she said, “so that the patients who come to us have reasonable expectations of what problems we can solve.”
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