Springfield, Mo – “My face was drooping, so immediately I thought ‘ stroke’,” said Ginger Williamson.
So, she came to the one place she knew she could be treated.
“I was with The Kitchen and I knew that when they closed, that MSU was opening,” she said.
She was told by a doctor at MSU Care Clinic that she is suffering from Bell’s Palsy.
“And that’s what’s going on right now. That’s why [I have] the patch on my eye,” she explained.
Williamson is one of nearly 750 people who was treated at MSU Care in the past year since it opened its doors on Oct. 20, 2015. The clinic treats low-income individuals and those without insurance. Patients can get physical exams, some X-rays, even mental health services and treatment for chronic diseases including diabetes, hypertension, and asthma – all free of charge. It’s funded through a collaboration between MSU and Mercy.
“Because we don’t have any other option,” Williamson said. “We could go to the emergency room, but then we get this huge bill.”
Shelley Carter, a nurse practitioner student at MSU Care who works alongside doctors there while getting her degree at MSU, says there’s a gap in health care coverage in Missouri.
“Because we didn’t expand Medicaid, there’s a lot of adults who don’t qualify for other forms of healthcare, whether it be Medicare or through ACA,” said Carter. “So, there’s a huge need for people who don’t have insurance and don’t have a means to pay for their health care.”
Hoping to close that gap, the clinic provides free primary and chronic care.
“I have a lot of chronic illnesses that the ER won’t bother with unless I’m in some kind of crisis,” said Williamson.
More than 17,000 prescriptions were filled this past year, paid for by donations from Mercy doctors and staff, and other grants. MSU Care staff has also helped 142 patients sign up for Medicaid coverage. Just in the past couple of months, the clinic has added free eye exams once a month – a service they plan hope to expand in the future.
Medical students say they have learned lessons that are less medical in nature, and more personal.
“You sure appreciate what you have even when you don’t have a day that’s not as bright as other days,” said Carter. “It also makes you feel thankful to be able to help other people who need that help, who are living in a disadvantage right now.”
And patients say it’s not just about the treatment, but how they are treated.
“They treat people with respect and dignity,”