One of the major problems in Wyoming is the lack of affordable health care. It’s an old issue and while health insurance is certainly a piece, there are few affordable places people can go who are without insurance or who are underinsured with high deductibles. For many years Laramie has had a clinic for very low-income people, it now has another health clinic for those who have fallen through the cracks.
It all came about last fall when the University of Wyoming applied for a federal grant that led to the establishment of the 9th primary care clinic in the state. The goal is to provide subsidized health care for low-income people and offer another health care provider for those who do have insurance in Laramie. They call it the Albany Community Health Clinic.
The University has operated Family Health Clinics in Casper and Cheyenne for a number of years and the goal is to provide health care while also offering a place for students in the College of Health Sciences to get practical experience. Richelle Keinath is the Executive Director, she said they will see a wide range of people.
“We see people from 200% of poverty or below are on a sliding fee scale, and we accept insurance if you have it, or Medicare or Medicaid.”
Doctor Katy Hartman is the Medical Director for the clinic. She was previously at Student Health Services on campus and jumped at the chance to take this position to help a population who may not have received health care for many years.
“A lot of patients that I’ve seen do have very complex medical problems and I think it’s because they’ve not had good access to the medical system. And I’ll probably see them back for several visits in the very beginning, depending on how complex their issues are until we get a handle on all of them.”
Nursing Manager Darcey Cowardin is helping one patient get a handle on her ailment. Cowardin had worked in private practice and noticed the many people who couldn’t get adequate health care.
“They were limited by their ability to pay or things like that. And it was just heart breaking to watch people not get the care that they needed.”
She doubts that many in Laramie understand the extent of the problem.
“I think there’s a huge social stratification that a lot of people don’t know about. Especially if you are on the upper side of that stratification, I think really easy to not purposefully overlook, but I don’t think it’s you necessarily run into every day. I think that people involved in health care in this community know that exists.”
One patient thinks she’d be in big trouble if she didn’t find the clinic. Debra Harley does not have insurance and had not been feeling well. In the past, she would have gone to the hospital emergency room, but this time she tried the clinic and found that she had a serious health problem that is being addressed. She thinks the clinic will save her life.
“We found a few things that I wasn’t aware of, which is great because now we can fix it. The E.R. they just want to fix it and get you out. And that’s all well and good, but it’s gonna come back.”
Jan Cartwright of the Wyoming Primary Care Association stresses that clinics like this one have made a difference in many communities across the state.
“That if the health center does the outreach that it needs to, to make sure that people understand what they do, I think they really do have a positive impact on their community in terms of bringing people in to receive care.”
Dr. Hartman added that while they get grants, they will need people with insurance to help raise enough money to stay afloat.
John Calder is a patient who has insurance who has found Dr. Hartman’s care to be exceptional. He’s been dealing with a medical issue for many months and for the first time he believes it’s getting taken care of.
“She had more than enough time to ask me follow-up questions as well as explain what she thought the best treatments were. Often times at doctor visits before I feel like I am rushed through in 7 to 11 minutes, and I don’t feel understood, and I don’t feel they understand my illness. “
Keinath said they plan to grow with hopes of adding a pharmacy and perhaps even dental services to the mix.