Pettis County has a variety of health care options and one organization is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.
While its roots go back to 1998, Katy Trail Community Health was established in the end of 2005, starting with nine employees and growing to more than 100 today at clinics in Sedalia, Marshall, Versailles, Stover and Warsaw. The idea of a free clinic in Sedalia began with brainstorming from existing local organizations.
“They were sitting together in the office saying we need a clinic to serve these folks we’re seeing in each of our agencies,” KTCH CEO Chris Stewart recalled while speaking with the Democrat earlier this week. “… Those three women started meeting and then Dr. Mangunta reached out about wanting to volunteer and it was just almost like serendipity that we’re thinking about starting this. He reached out to Dr. Allcorn, and those folks just did not give up.”
The Cooperative Medical Clinic was created in 1998 at the Salvation Army and later incorporated as the Community Free Clinic in 1999 when it moved to East Broadway Boulevard. Dr. Mangunta, Dr. Gonzalez, Dr. Allcorn and Dr. Campbell all volunteered in the early days of the organization.
“When I was looking at the slides (during our recent annual meeting), I was shocked at the extent to which we’ve grown in the 10 years, in terms of people cared for, employees and budget,” Stewart said. “Our CFO thinks we’ll be a $10 million organization next year, and that officially puts us in the large health center category. It’s absolutely crazy.”
Stewart said Katy Trail’s purpose hasn’t changed since those early days: “to partner with both patients and community members to help folks in our community get healthier, either through coming to our clinic and receiving care or through the community activities we engage in to prevent the development of disease.”
She noted that one main area of development for the organization has been the integration of medical, dental and behavioral health into one health care model.
“People with mental illness or even episodic behavioral health issues, there’s a stigma to getting help for those kinds of services. By having them located in a primary care facility, that stigma can be eliminated because you’re coming to the doctor,” Stewart explained. “Any patient who comes to the doctor at any of our sites and the doctor in their conversation with that patient believes there might be a behavioral health issue, they can pull someone in right then and there to help work through and start that process. They’re part of a team.”
Another area of success has been Katy On the Go, a mobile dental program that visits eight school districts a year to provide dental care to students. Stewart said the schedules are full at every school for every visit.
Katy Trail also hired a dietitian about six months ago, who Stewart called a “wonderful resource” for patients and physicians.
Patients aren’t the only ones KTCH wants to succeed. The organization also supports its staff in furthering their education and training to advance in their field. Stewart said it’s been “exciting” to see the employees grow, such as two dental assistants who left to go to dental hygienist school and then returned to KTCH. Other employees have gone through health information management and certified medical group management programs.
While 2016 is about celebrating 10 years, Katy Trail Health is continuing to look forward. Stewart said the organization’s strategic growth plan includes adding one more site in Johnson County, most likely in Warrensburg in the next few years. She added that they are “batting around the idea” of an additional site in Sedalia or expansion of the Sedalia clinic.
Katy Trail is also looking to serve its communities in ways beyond health care.
“One thing we know about folks who come to us, and most anyone who has significant challenges with health, is that they also have social issues that are having an impact on their ability to get healthy, whether that is literacy, food insecurity, housing insecurity, poverty or abuse, those all intersect with health in a significant way,” Stewart said.
“We just finished strategic planning with our board back in February and one of our goals as an organization is to engage more in all the communities we serve on identifying key issues we can get involved in around those community issues. The question for us is, what is our role?”
Stewart added that the success of Katy Trail is due to many people, including the current physicians, nurses and staff who “believe in the mission and the medical home model and that this organization allows them to make real change in our communities.”
She also said it’s easy to see how the vision from 1998 has a direct line to 2016.
“The dedication of those folks was crazy. They were seeing 350 patients a month doing evening clinics,” Stewart said of the founding doctors and volunteers. “Cheri Heeren (of Pettis County Community Partnership who helped come up with the free clinic idea), has told me, ‘We couldn’t have dreamed big enough to see this. Our dream was just to have a little clinic to see people.’ But somehow I think, Dr. Mangunta, Dr. Gonzalez, Dr. Allcorn, they did see it.”
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or @NicoleRCooke.