After more than three decades, Jackson County Health Department is discontinuing its Well Child Clinics. The clinics gave free primary medical care to children of low-income families.

After more than three decades, Jackson County Health Department is discontinuing its Well Child Clinics. The clinics gave free primary medical care to children of low-income families.

The clinics were offered in Independence, Lee’s Summit, Blue Springs, Oak Grove and Grandview. Wednesday was the last of the clinics in Independence. It was held at The First Christian Church.

“It was a worthwhile, important service,” said R. James Kelly, director of the health department. “We had to reduce our expenses. We really don’t want to do it.”

Kelly cited general revenue reduction as the reason behind the closings. The clinics were cut over other county health services because the county has no contractual obligation to run the clinics, Kelly said.

“A lot of health departments don’t provide well-child services at all,” Kelly said. “While we were able to do it, we did it.”

Emily Coyne brought her 1-year-old son Dominik to Wednesday’s clinic.

“We have to find somewhere else to go,” Coyne said. “This was a major help to us.”

Coyne predicts Dominik will fall behind in his checkups now that the Well Child Clinic is closing.

“We don’t know how long it’s going to take to get approved for Medicaid,” Coyne said.

The Health Department has communicated with each of the participants of the clinics, via a letter, a notice on their website, and verbal communication at the clinics. Health Department officials referred patients to Truman Medical Centers at Lakewood and Hospital Hill, Grain Valley Family Medical Care and Raytown Family Medical Care.

While clinics were free, there is no guarantee of free care at other practitioners.

“Some clients have insurance, but it doesn’t always cover well-child care,” said Sara Walz, a nurse at the clinic. “A lot of people will slip through the cracks.”

Some practitioners use a sliding scale to determine out-of-pocket costs to their clients, Walz said.

There is also no assurance that care provided at other providers will be as thorough as the care at the county clinics. The clinics administered the Denver Developmental Screening Test. Many providers don’t administer the exam, said Stephanie Greer, a nurse at the clinic. The clinic also administered lead screening, hemoglobin tests, physicals, vision and hearing screenings, infection screening and more.

The clinic partnered with Reach Out and Read, a program that gives books to children, through their doctors.

“We promote literacy,” said Walz. “With every Well Child exam, a child got a book.”

Despite the closings, Kelly sees well-child care as important.

“We really encourage parents to continue to get this service,” Kelly said. “We need to continue to provide these services to protect the health of the community.”

Kelly emphasized that Jackson County will continue their regular immunization clinics.