OVERLAND PARK – Officials with the Health Partnership Clinic here said Wednesday that they plan to expand the clinic’s services southward and more than double the number of patients seen each year.
The announcement came on the heels of other news delivered by Jay Angoff, regional director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Angoff said the Health Partnership Clinic was one of three safety-net clinics in Kansas (along with Heartland Medical Clinic in Lawrence and Health Ministries Clinic in Newton) that received a total of $1.8 million in new grant funding available through the federal Affordable Care Act.
Noting Johnson County’s reputation for affluence, Angoff said, “Johnson County does have poor people. Most of these patients would have no place to turn if the Health Partnership Clinic was not here.”
Safety-net clinics specialize in treating relatively low-income patients who lack adequate health insurance coverage or have problems finding other medical providers.
In approving the grant, HHS officials also designated the Health Partnership Clinic a federally qualified health center, or FQHC.
As an FQHC, the clinic will receive a $650,000 grant annually from the department. The grant will help cover the costs of treating uninsured patients.
Medicaid reimbursements to federally approved centers also take into account the higher costs of serving an at-risk population, providing funding for services such as transportation and language translation.
With the grant and the Medicaid reimbursements, the Health Partnership Clinic projects it will be able to treat about 11,000 patients a year. It sees about 4,250 patients a year now.
With an annual budget of about $1.6 million, the clinic has the equivalent of 17 full-time employees.
Chief Executive Officer Jason Wesco said the clinic expects to double its staff, including adding nurse practitioners, dentists and physicians.
Wesco estimated that roughly half the additional patients the clinic would pick up would come from its new partnership with the Elizabeth Layton Center, a community mental health center that serves Miami and Franklin counties.
John Peimann, chief financial officer for the Elizabeth Layton Center said the facility would lease about 10 percent of a 16,000-square-foot building in Paola to the Health Partnership Clinic.
The Elizabeth Layton Center is spending about $2.4 million on the purchase and renovation of the structure, which will house its services for outpatients and children.
The Health Partnership Clinic will provide medical care to the mental health patients along with other needy residents. Wesco said the Paola facility could draw patients from Linn County as well as Cass County, Mo.
“If they get here,” he said, “we will serve them.”
The Health Partnership Clinic officials grant was part of $128.6 million awarded by HHS to 219 health centers across the country.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the money would help treat more than 1.25 million additional patients and create approximately 5,640 jobs by establishing and expanding health center service delivery sites.
The Health Partnership Clinic is an important resource in Johnson County, Angoff said. The county has roughly 43,000 residents that lack health insurance, he said.
At a county Human Service Summit held last week, members of the safety net community heard that the number of residents living below the poverty line in Johnson County increased by 134 percent between 2000 and 2010.
The funding that comes with the designation as a federally qualified health center is a significant step toward long-term financial viability for the 20-year-old Health Partnership Clinic, said board chair Kathy Howell, who is chief executive officer of Saint Luke’s South in Overland Park.
“This is all about sustainability,” she said.
Howell said the clinic’s philanthropic supporters had been pressing the leadership to set a course for a more secure financial future.
The Delta Dental of Kansas Foundation was among those funders. Executive Director Karen Finstad said the foundation was reluctant at first to fund the clinic because it had doubts about its long-term viability.
It didn’t want to finance equipment for an organization that was going to fold, she said.
Finstad said the foundation was thrilled with the clinic’s designation as an FQHC.
And, she added, “We just gave them a $20,000 grant last week for some equipment.”