COLUMBIA — Beth Geden, a nurse practitioner at the Columbia Family Health Center, said she sees more patients daily than her colleagues in private practice.
"People without insurance are almost tough out of luck," Geden said. "Access to dental care is almost dismal. In our clinic, when we look and try to meet the demand, it's hard to get people in."
Larger numbers of uninsured or underinsured people utilizing services at the Center have increased the need for funding and medical providers, issues Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., discussed after a tour Thursday.
"I think these clinics will benefit from a greater understanding of how many people they serve and how many people wouldn't have care otherwise," Blunt said.
Services such as mental health, dentistry and access to nurse practitioners and physicians are integrated under one roof, making medical care more accessible to those without transportation.
Collectively, community health centers in Missouri serve more than 420,000 uninsured or underinsured people yearly.
Joseph Pierle, chief executive officer of the Missouri Primary Care Association, said the Family Health Center serves about 15,000 patients annually, 3,800 of whom are uninsured and 6,200 on Medicaid.
"Almost all of Missouri is in a primary care provider and dental health shortage," he said.
Pierle said he hopes Blunt will consider the local center's needs.
"The fact that he has decided he is going to be a lead senator on issues that affect community health centers is a big plus for Missouri," Pierle said. "He'll listen and share that with his colleagues so that when they are formulating health policy, our patients will be at the forefront."