The need for affordable health care continues to far exceed services available in western Montana, but now the expansion of Missoula's Partnership Health Center hopes to serve more families.
Recent numbers from the Montana Primary Care Association estimate that 25,000 low or no income individuals in Missoula County alone qualify for community based health services.
"For one reason or another -- access, expenses -- don't access them. So, the need for expansion is tremendous in our community," says Kim Mansch, the executive director of Partnership Health Center.
That's just Missoula County. Some patients drive hundreds of miles. Mansch attributes that to the wide array of care patients can find access to here.
"We have about 12 percent of our patients come from Ravalli County. We have patients who come from Mineral County and Granite County. We also have a wide array of health services that many centers don't have, including the behavioral health, the pharmacy and dental. That is a draw, so it is not uncommon for us to see people coming from Idaho or come down from Kalispell, or other areas of the state to access our services under that patient centered medical home model," she adds.
However, with more than 10,000 patients taking advantage of services, the wait time in the former building was long.
Mansch explains, "The demand for our services has always far exceeded the amount that we have available. Prior to moving here, if you were a new patient and wanted to see a doctor at Partnership Health Center, you were probably looking at 8 weeks to get in. Now, with the additional space and being able to accommodate additional residents and staffing, we are looking at about 2 to 3 weeks out for a new patient appointment."
Experts say that if a person can afford to come and see the doctor, often they can't afford the medications, but Partnership Health Center has a program that helps make the medications more affordable.
Patients also can find access to mental and behavioral medicine, as eight more qualified employees are on staff to address needs, while the patient already is visiting the clinic.
Partnership also is now offering full OB-GYN care and sees parents continuing on with child care on-site.
Currently, Partnership Health Center serves 11,000 patients but has the square footage to serve 20,000 patients in 3 years. That will take more private and Community Health Services funds from the government.