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Health Services


Catherine Garner


Access to primary health care services is a significant issue for many communities seeking to improve the health of their populations. This single case study describes the 12-year journey of 2 adjoining rural counties in 2 states towards meeting the primary and specialty care needs of the uninsured and underinsured population. Data were triangulated using historical documents, first-person interviews, and health utilization data. The community leadership moved through various models including a free clinic and a university-sponsored health center before finally establishing a federally qualified health center, which now serves 40,000 citizens in these counties. The site is now hosting new programs funded by research grants in alliance with area universities. Success is contributed to an unwavering desire to provide a medical home for the underinsured and underinsured, a shared vision, recognition that continued success was dependent on a funding source, recognition that practices and processes must be in place to assist with navigation for those in need of services to seek care at the appropriate venue, and a belief that the infrastructure built to provide care was sustainable. All participants recognized the importance of funding for sustainability. Positive social change has occurred from the emergence of a multidisciplinary center to serve the community's uninsured and underinsured, thus improving access to care, management of chronic conditions, and access to behavioral health professionals. Findings from this study may inform other communities faced with similar problems and can inform legislators of the importance of federally qualified health centers in the provision of health care to vulnerable populations.

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