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Kountze Commons combatting disparities in healthcare

Posted at 5:57 PM, Sep 14, 2021

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The disparities in healthcare across the country, and in the state of Nebraska, are substantial.

“Almost 30% of American Indians that live in Nebraska do not have health insurance,” University of Nebraska Omaha Public Policy and Social Equity Assistant Professor Dr. Barbara Gomez said. “They are followed by Latinos who pretty much 1 in every 5 Latinos that live in Nebraska do not have access to health insurance, and about 19 percent of African Americans.”

Under the state’s expanded Medicaid program those gaps are expected to decrease.

“About 90,000 Nebraskans will now be able to benefit from the expansion of Medicaid,” Gomez said.

While Medicaid is expected to make that difference, a few organizations in Omaha have worked together to help the under-served population.

“We know it’s a big need in the community. We know this is something that if we can get whole healthcare going and have so many services in one place, we know that’s best for a lot of our patients who maybe don’t have all of their necessities met,” Methodist Community Health Clinic Behavior Health Counselor Jillian Reitz said.

Reitz also works for Lutheran Family Services and the Healing Gift Free Clinic.

The Methodist Community Health Clinic was looking to help the people who needed it most.

“We kind of did an actual assessment of our community. Where are we missing healthcare for our community? Where are they in the most need but they don’t have access?” Methodist Community Health Clinic Nurse Practitioner Rhonda Clements said. “In our search, we discovered Kountze had that same thought in their minds.”

In 2017 the clinic, along with Kountze Memorial Lutheran Church and Lutheran Family Services, moved into their new location, the Kountze Commons.

They focus not only on treating their patients but on getting to know their patients, educating them, and using each other as resources to give patients the help they need.

“A visit here is not a simple 5–10-minute visit. It’s an evaluation assessment of their medical status but also an assessment of what things play a part in them staying healthy, and how can we get them to the resources that they need,” Clements said. “We may make a referral to a food bank. We may make a referral to the housing authority.”

The Kountze Food Pantry is one of the programs they use to provide for their patients.

They served around 760 people with food and wellness kits Monday alone. Although the pantry only runs Mondays and Fridays, that food is still available for patients at the clinic.

“We’ve had patients that have had food insecurities and they don’t have any food to go home to after their visit. I’ve collaborated with the Kountze Pantry and provided them with some food to take home,” Clements said.

Another program that they all collaborate on is the Healing Gift Free Clinic.

The free clinic is open every Thursday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. inside the Methodist Community Health Clinic. All the health care professionals volunteer to help those that are financially in need.

“They have some specialty physicians that volunteer during their clinic, and they’re more than willing to see our patients if our patients need specialties,” Clements said.

“You can get things done like primary care. You can see specialists like cardiologists, orthopedics, dermatologists, dietitians, behavioral health, all of those are possibilities,” Reitz, who also works for the Healing Gift Clinic and Lutheran Family Services, said.

If patients can’t afford a service or medication many times after a checkup at the Methodist Community Health Clinic, they will be scheduled to return for the healing gift free clinic, so that they can get the help that they need.

“We utilize them, and they utilize us. It’s pretty much a back-and-forth collaboration, and they have been very supportive of our goals and we’re very supportive of theirs,” Clements said. “Mainly because we’re pretty much the same.”

The Kountze Commons, and what they’ve done to combat disparities in healthcare, is a perfect example of when we come together for the common good, we can make a difference.

To learn more about the Kountze Commons and what they offer, click here.