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Columbia’s Family Health Center Takes a New Approach

Columbia’s Family Health Center Takes a New Approach

Some of Columbia’s Family Health Center employees will soon have more wiggle room. The patient-centered medical-home model the center has recently adopted inspired an expansion that begins in January.

A patient-centered medical home is a model for transforming the organization and delivery of primary care. Family Health Center CEO Gloria Crull says the model focuses on team-based care; physicians work together with behavioral health consultants, nurses, dieticians and the like to help patients understand their chronic illnesses.

Crull says the model has been working well. To make more room for the team-based meetings the model requires, some minor modifications are going to be made to the 1001 W. Worley St. location.

Providing a ‘home’

Columbia’s Family Health Center was established in 1992 and provides primary and preventive health care to the medically underserved in Columbia. Its initial partners included the Columbia Area United Way, the Columbia/Boone County Health Department, the University of Missouri School of Medicine and the Missouri Department of Social Services. Affiliated locations can be found in Marceline, Missouri, and Salisbury, Missouri. Columbia also offers an affiliated Family Dental Center.

The Columbia, Marceline and Salisbury centers provide primary medical, mental health and dental care services through board-certified physicians and nurse practitioners, licensed dentists, dental hygienists, clinical social workers and nurses. The center also provides medication-assistance services for uninsured persons, referral to specialty care, referral to other community resources and language interpretation services.

Instead of uninsured and underinsured patients heading straight to the emergency room, the Family Health Center offers them a “medical home.”


Building the board

With changes such as implementing the patient-centered medical-home model comes a board of directors to facilitate it. The center has a board of 13 voting members and five consulting members with various backgrounds. Two of the members are from Salisbury, and another two are from Marceline. Fifty-one percent of the board members are Family Health Center patients. This is required to be a federally qualified health center, Crull says.

Retired Columbia Public Schools assistant superintendent and longtime board member Lynn Barnett finds this rule beneficial.

“It makes it more real for the board to have their input,” Barnett says. “They can speak from their own experiences.”

Barnett became involved with the center when it partnered with Columbia Public Schools in the ’90s. At the time, she was still working as an assistant superintendent. She says the volunteer board members get to set policies and develop the budget. She remains on the board even in retirement.

“I believe it’s such a worthy organization, and I wanted to stay connected,” she says.

Barnett says board members are typically nominated by Family Health Center staff members or other board members.

Crull similarly became involved with the center by chance. She was involved in a reading program for high-risk children through Altrusa International, a community service organization. As part of her volunteer work, she brought donated books to the Family Health Center. To this day, the center has a bookshelf with free children’s books. The CEO position was created in 1995, and Crull the job because of her background in public health. The rest is history.


Embracing change

Since 1995, Crull has seen much growth in the center. Today the center provides mental health care and partners with other agencies in the community. The patient-centered medical-home model is just its latest step in evolving with the times.

The Family Health Center is partially funded by a competitive federal grant that has to be reapplied for every five years. It’s also funded by program income: money from patients who are insured by Medicare of Medicaid. Donations are always accepted, and smaller amounts of funding are acquired from other sources such as state funds.

Crull says the Family Health Center is important because it supports the economy and quality of life in Columbia. She says Columbia has a significant number of uninsured working poor residents who need help.

Columbia isn’t the only city affected by the center, though. The center has a 10-county service area and doesn’t refuse any patients, Crull says.

The Family Health Center has impacted many lives in the community, and Barnett continues to believe in its importance.

“I truly believe that the Family Health Center is crucial for this community,” she says.

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