Despite the cold temperatures and wind, more than 100 people gathered outside Thursday afternoon for the dedication of Jordan Valley Community Health Center’s newest addition — The Roy Blunt Center for Family Health and Wellness.
“Our history and our future are in large part due to the work of our United States Sen. Roy Blunt, who we want to thank and congratulate for his contributions to health care,” said Mike Schnake, JVCHC board chair, during the dedication ceremony.
Blunt was busy in Springfield on Thursday and Friday. He gave the commencement address at Missouri State University, attended the terminal renaming in his honor at Branson-Springfield National Airport and attended the groundbreaking for the addition to the building formerly known as Temple Hall — now Roy Blunt Hall — on MSU’s campus.
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The new health center, which is housed in what used to be a Price Cutter on the corner of Grand Street and Kansas Expressway, offers a central location for women and children to receive care. There, people can access outpatient surgical procedures in one of the four operating rooms, vision services, dental services and medical care. Schnake estimates that about 41,000 patients will visit the center annually.
Blunt’s work in Congress helped pave way for community health center
The women and children’s section of the center will open to patients on Jan. 3, 2023 — nearly 20 years to the day that JVCHC opened its first location in a strip mall on Division Street. The sole provider for that initial clinic spoke at Thursday’s dedication.
“Who would have thought a little tiny clinic out on West Division, with just a few of us out there, would turn into this? It’s amazing,” said John Bentley, a retired physician.
Now, JVCHC has over 700 employees. They see 22,000 patient visits annually from 38 Missouri counties, according to Schnake.
The success of the area health centers, as well as health centers around the country, is due in part to Blunt’s efforts in Congress, according to Amanda Pears Kelly, CEO of Advocates for Community Health.
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“When the senator took office, health center program was just a fraction of what it is today, serving millions but nowhere near where we are,” Pears Kelly said. “Over the decades of (Blunt’s) time in office, because of his vision and leadership, he helped to grow and support the health center program to where it is today: 1,400 health centers across this country in every single state and territory in the nation, serving 33 million patients and growing every day. He is an enormous part of what made that possible.”
Blunt served in the House of Representatives from 1997 to 2011, and as a senator from 2011 to 2022. He has also served as a ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies and is a founding member of the Congressional Community Health Centers Caucus. Blunt is also part of an effort to address mental health equally with physical health.
Having a place to access integrated care is ‘vital to growth and wellbeing of our community members’
The fact that people can access multiple modes of care in one place is invaluable to Dr. Ashley Popejoy, director of pediatric dentistry for JVCHC. In her speech, Popejoy said that her childhood was marked by many of the same challenges faced by those the center serves today, like housing and food insecurity as well as difficulty accessing health care and transportation.
“If you have never been in a situation where these types of experiences were a reality, you may be unaware of how all-consuming and ever-present those needs might be. It will affect your personal, educational and health-related goals for yourself and your family,” Popejoy said. “Having a single location where a family can address multiple barriers, and have all their health care needs met with integrated and convenient care, is vital to the growth and wellbeing of our community members.”
JVCHC began its integrated model several years ago, Popejoy explained, as a way to better serve the community.
Patients who came to a clinic often needed help with transportation, navigating or re-activating Medicaid or health issues that weren’t otherwise addressed. And JVCHC found that when providers were able to consult with each other about patients, in the same place, it ensured continuity of care and that needs were better met.
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“We can meet with the moms as they’re pregnant and say, ‘This is when we need to see your baby for the first time; would you like to meet a pediatrician who may be your child’s pediatrician?'” Popejoy said. “And we have all of that in one (place), so mom only has to miss work one time, or find public transportation or a cab ride one time.”
Additionally, it makes it easier for parents who may not be able to afford multiple appointments. One instance Popejoy has encountered multiple times is children coming in complaining of tooth pain, but not having anything wrong with their teeth. Rather than parents having to make another appointment and transportation arrangements to see a pediatrician, Popejoy was able to have a pediatrician within the center examine the child, diagnosing them with an ear infection.
The outpatient procedure clinic has been in operation since June 2022 and has served 700 people, 660 of which were children with dental pain and infections, Popejoy said.
Susan Szuch is the health and public policy reporter for the Springfield News-Leader. Follow her on Twitter @szuchsm. Story idea? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.