The Community Clinic of Southwest Missouri started in 1993 as a volunteer-only clinic in Joplin, Missouri. Since then, it has grown to a full-time clinic providing no-cost health and dental care to the uninsured throughout southwest Missouri and southeast Kansas. The clinic receives no government funding for the services it provides, which include primary care, specialty care (cardiology, pulmonology, endocrinology, gynecology, orthopedics, chiropractic, pediatrics, mental health, physical therapy, dental, and nutrition education); laboratory services, and pharmacy.
Heart to Heart International and The Community Clinic of Southwest Missouri first connected in 2011 in the aftermath of the devastating tornado in Joplin, Missouri. At the time, the Community Clinic was one of the few health facilities in town that was not damaged. Because of this, the clinic was able to provide assistance triaging individuals who were not in critical need. However, the clinic did not have a laboratory to test for patient needs. HHI worked with clinic to fund a lab—a lab that has been a significant factor in the clinic’s growth over the last 10 years.
“The continuity of patient care has tremendously improved through the ability to test a patient while they are in the office rather than sending them elsewhere for labs,” Stephanie Brady, Executive Director of The Community Clinic of Southwest Missouri, said. “The populations that we serve have obstacles that make it difficult for them to follow-through on various things, so simplifying their healthcare is essential to ensuring that they are managing their health effectively.”
Since that first project, the two organizations have partnered in a variety of ways to meet needs of patients. One way is through HHI’s delivery of donations of medications, medical equipment, medical supplies and emergency supplies.
“We truly could not do the work we do without the help from our partners like Heart to Heart International,” Brady said. “I can tell you that every day, our lab, our medications, our equipment—all of those things save lives. In addition, it allows us to provide the necessary tools for our staff to be able to do their jobs effectively.”
How does this make a difference?
In early 2021, a 16-year-old girl came to the clinic through a referral from her high school counselor. The student had been missing school due to her health and the counselor was concerned. At the clinic, the pediatrician worked with the diabetic specialist to determine that the child had extreme needs and needed to be using an insulin pump. The specialists believed that if the girl did not receive treatment soon, she would not survive. The young woman is from a Hispanic family that is new to the area and speaks little English. The diabetic specialist and nurse—who both speak Spanish—worked with the family so they could understand her health condition and to try to get her the care she needs.
When Brady was told that the girl would not survive without an insulin pump, she contacted Charles [Hoogner, HHI Product Distribution Manager] with Heart to Heart International and told him the situation. “He got back with me that day and said he would do whatever he could to make sure it happened,” Brady said. “In less than a week, we had the pump (plus a backup) from Heart to Heart and were training the family in its use. Through this partnership, a young girl’s life has been saved.”
Despite the many challenges of the past year, The Community Clinic of Southwest Missouri never shut down due to COVID-19. The clinic did, however, significantly change its policies and procedures as a result of the pandemic. Many of those changes it expects to maintain—like telehealth. The clinic had never offered telehealth before but has found that it is very beneficial for many patients and will continue to offer it moving forward. The clinic is also actively providing COVID-19 vaccines and testing, vaccinating more than 1000 people at the clinic and now coordinating outreach vaccination clinics.
“We are just very blessed to have such amazing partners that I know I can call on and know that, whatever the request, Heart to Heart International will do its best to help us. The idea that we had such a huge need and there was just a calm person on the other end saying, yes, we will help you. It truly changes lives, and I am appreciative.” – Stephanie Brady, Executive Director of The Community Clinic of Southwest Missouri.