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June 04, 2013 8:03 am

EDITORIAL: Community health center in Powell?

Written by Tessa Schweigert

Questions remain, but center may better serve area residents

Being “in-between” often creates headaches for residents seeking health care.

Babies, children and elderly residents can receive care through various state and federal programs. Low-income residents who lack insurance can turn to the Heart Mountain Volunteer Medical Clinic.

But what about those between 18 and 65? And what if you make too much money to qualify for free care, but too little to afford insurance?

“That’s where you have the under-served population,” said Sharon Baker with the Powell Health Care Coalition.

To meet the needs of under-served residents in Park and Big Horn counties, the coalition is looking to open a community health center in Powell.

We recognize the need for medical care for area residents of all income levels, especially those who are caught in-between.

The community health center would provide medical services to anyone, with or without insurance. For local households with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, care would be provided on a sliding scale. Those who are at or below the poverty level would receive free care. Patients who have private insurance, Medicaid or Medicare also could be treated at the center. While the target service area is Park and Big Horn counties, the center would be available to anyone from the region.

If all goes as planned, the community health center would provide vital services beyond basic medical care. Powell’s center also would offer mental health services and dental care. As a recent needs assessment showed, there’s a great need for oral care and behavioral and mental health care in Park and Big Horn counties.

The idea of a community health center in the area isn’t a new one, but the concept is finally gaining momentum. We see real potential here.

However, questions remain unanswered, and specific details won’t be worked out until, and unless, state funding for the center is approved.

It’s also uncertain whether the free clinic will operate alongside the community health center. Powell Valley Healthcare CEO Bill Patten said it’s his personal opinion that the community health center would replace the Heart Mountain Volunteer Medical Clinic.

The free clinic’s outgoing director, Jo Ann Cozzens, said last month that she hopes the clinic continues to take care of patients as it has for five years. In the end, she said, “I want what is best for the patients and the community.”

We agree. Whatever form it takes, health care for the under-served must continue to be a priority in this community.

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