MISSOULA, Mont. - We have been telling you how one of our region's biggest sliding scale health clinics is expanding to meet more clients.
Now, the public is getting its first chance to tour the new, larger partnership health facility. Now medical, dental, behavioral, pharmacy and an obgyn services are all at the creamery building on Railroad Street.
Even though the clinic now has the space to treat families of all income levels, it's still facing other growth challenges.
This is the only federally qualified health center in Missoula County. It turns no one away, but it still is working on enough funding to serve everyone who needs services.
Partnership Health Center is welcoming the public to see its new, larger space in Missoula's historic Creamery Building. Right now, staff members are seeing between 11,000 to 12,000 clients, but that still is about half of the population that qualifies for help in medical care.
"It continues to be our big issue, where we are just doing our best to get as many people seen as we can because there's just so, so many people in Missoula and the surrounding community that needs services," said Kim Mansch, Executive Director of Partnership Health Center.
A residency program in Western Montana is adding new staff members and already, wait times are dropping for new patients from a few months, to a couple of weeks or even days.
"Decreased the wait times for established patients to get an appointment in and new patients to get an appointment," said Jessie Meacham, Certified Medical Assistant.
The residency program adds 10 new residents every year. The next batch comes this July.
"There was a point in time where the clinic was understaffed but I think you will see that in any employment setting. People leave, come and go and then you have to hire new staff. The process can take some time interviewing qualified people," explained Meacham.
Because Montana ranks as one of the highest states in suicide rates, the Hartford Foundation and the Cardinal Foundation just provided additional grants for expanded behavioral medicine.
Partnership continues to work on getting other public and private funding, with the goal to increase the patient load for all services to at least 20,000 in the next three years.
We checked the latest numbers from the Montana Primary Association that estimates about 25,000 low or no income individuals in just Missoula County qualify for community based health care services.