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St. Luke’s Wood River Foundation funding to expand care for the uninsured

By Joy Prudek, Notes and Announcements
August 6, 2021
Family Health Services and St. Luke

Family Health Services plans to open a medical, dental and behavioral health clinic with pharmacy services in the city of Bellevue to serve the uninsured and under-insured in Blaine County. 

A $1 million grant from the St. Luke’s Wood River Foundation (SLWRF) will make the clinic a reality.

“I believe this is one of the most impactful efforts that the SLWR Foundation and the hospital have undertaken,” said Megan Tanous, SLWR Foundation chief development officer. “Due to financial situations, people who might not otherwise have access to health care and dentistry services will now be able to get excellent medical care.”

Last year, more than 700 Blaine County patients traveled to Family Health Services Clinics in Jerome or Fairfield. Access to affordable dental care and behavioral health services complements St. Luke’s work to address the health priorities of the community as identified in the 2019 Community Health Needs Assessment.

“St. Luke’s Wood River supports Family Health Services in its mission to help reach the most vulnerable community members in need,” said Erin Pfaeffle, St. Luke’s Wood River director of community engagement. “We are particularly excited for the expanded access to dental and behavioral health services.” 

All services for the uninsured will be significantly discounted, based on patients’ federal poverty thresholds (200% or below). Family Health Services also sees a high number of Medicaid patients in need of dental and behavioral health care, and many Blaine County behavioral health providers and dentists do not accept Medicaid. 

Typically, such clinics can secure government grants to fund start-up costs, but government grants are based on median income and health statistics; Blaine County’s median income is too high and its health statistics are such that a start-up grant isn’t possible.

“We will be able to provide affordable health care for those living in the Wood River Valley,” said Aaron Houston, Family Health Services CEO. “The clinic would not have been possible without the support of the St. Luke's Wood River Foundation.”

Family Health Services works to reach people who may be reluctant or otherwise unable to access care. Those managing chronic disease often fall into this category and end up needing urgent or emergency care. Adding a location in Bellevue also removes the barriers of missing work and/or school and expenses when care is sought outside the county.

Family Health Services is working to hire two full-time nurse practitioners, one full-time dentist, one part-time hygienist, one full-time licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) counselor, one full-time pharmacist and bilingual support staff. The organization has secured a lease for a 4,136-square-foot building in Bellevue. The grant from the foundation will assist with the needed remodel and start-up costs, including equipment, as well as financial support for the five-year lease. The clinic is slated to open in the fall of 2021.

“We are pleased to welcome Family Health Services and look forward to partnering with them to help improve access to care and to further deliver on our mission of improving the health of everyone in the communities we serve,” said Carmen Jacobsen, St. Luke’s chief operating officer/chief nursing officer.

To support this project, contact Megan Tanous, (208) 727-8444 or visit the St. Luke's Wood River Foundation. For information about Family Health Services employment opportunities or services visit FHS online.

About The Author

Joy Prudek is the manager of public relations for St. Luke's Wood River.