(Atchison Globe, Wednesday, March 4, 2020)
While the Atchison Community Health Clinic has entered its second decade of service in this community, it still has a bit of an identity problem.
“After getting feedback from the community through our Community Listening Sessions, we learned we are still believed to be and referred to as the ‘free clinic’ or ‘that clinic up on north Second Street,’” said Stevie Durkin, executive director.
He smiled. He has a message for Atchison.
“We are here, we are growing, and we are the everybody clinic.”
Now in his third year as the head of ACHC, Durkin said that while the community may struggle to define the clinic, the board of directors and clinic staff are reminded of who they are and their impact.
“Each time we have monthly board or all-staff meetings, we have a new employee to introduce, new numbers to share, and, exciting goals we’ve met,” Durkin said. “Our identity is always about service and solid growth, and increasing access to needed services.”
Anyone at the helm of a 501(C)3 and who depends on the Federal government for funding has both a challenge and a gift. While ACHC serves both uninsured and fully insured patients with medical, dental and behavioral health needs, their task is to increase services to those that don’t have access to healthcare due to lack of insurance, or are under-insured.
“We know that around 25% of Atchison County lives below the poverty level so we know that our services and facilities must expand to meet that need,” Durkin said.
Durkin also knows one of the misconceptions about the clinic too is that if a person has insurance, or was seen in the clinic but then is enrolled in Medicaid or Medicare that they cannot come anymore?
“Our mission is to increase access to quality healthcare for all, regardless of their income, insurance status, or situation. But every patient we see with private insurance helps cover the costs we incur for uninsured or underinsured patients. This allows us to focus on meeting all of our patients’ needs.”
In addition to onsite services, ACHC provides mental health services in local school districts in Atchison Public Schools, Riverside, and Troy Schools, and is working to re-establish programming in Atchison County Schools. Their dental outreach program stretches even further than to include Atchison Public, Atchison County, Riverside, Troy, South Brown County, Doniphan West, and Pleasant Ridge schools.
“When a patient walks into our clinic with a health issue, they see a health care provider, can have their labs drawn, receive immediate support from a behavioral health provider, as well as receive chronic condition education all in one visit,” Durkin said. “We work toward overall health outcomes which results in better patient care.”
The ACHC was started as a “free clinic” in 2009 with a small group of dedicated local physicians, nurses, and mental health volunteers. They were open as a walk in clinic two evenings a week. After several years functioning simply with donated services, medication and supplies, a federal grant was secured under the leadership of Kathy Butler.
At that time, full time staff was implemented and opportunities for growth and service in the community grew.
Durkin is also pleased with the many collaborative relationships ACHC has with schools and other organizations in the community. They benefit from service learning hours and projects thru Benedictine College. With the local YMCA, some patients are given membership benefits.
“We take pride in the community relationships we engender,” Durkin says.
In 2019 the clinic saw close to 2300 unique patients or a patient that comes in at least once to the clinic. In 2020, the goal to meets it almost 2600. While that number has grown 25% the last two years, ACHC data shows that only 23% of county residents eligible for discounted services have made their way to ACHC.
“I believe we are on target to exceed that number,” Durkin added. “While federal dollars for the clinic are attached to meeting certain quality measures, we just keep plugging away at improving our visibility, and most importantly our service.”
So the message?
“Come in. Visit our clinic. See our facility, meet our staff and learn about our services. I’m certain that you’ll be surprised.”