Carter County is no longer considered strapped for doctors, but Good Shepherd Clinic is serving more patients than ever.
Carter County was considered a Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Area by the Oklahoma State Department of Health until recently. Even so, the number of patients at Good Shepherd, a free clinic, has jumped significantly. Clinic Director Teresa Myers said the center saw roughly 1,000 new patients last year.
“We’re about 80 percent grant funded,” Myers said. “It just wasn’t sustainable anymore.”
Formerly considered a charity clinic, they have begun working to become a community health center, which brings in more opportunities for grant funding.
“As a charity clinic, we’re no longer able to sustain the funding for all the patients we care for,” Myers said. “So, our next step was to become a community health center.”
Myers said the number of Good Shepherd patients has grown significantly, prompting them to apply. They began working on the 200-page federal application last March and submitted it to the federal Department of Health and Human Services in June.
“That one comes with grant dollars, so that’s the next step,” Myers said. “This gets us prepared for that step.”
According to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, community health centers are private, federally funded nonprofit organizations that provide primary health services to a medically underserved area. Originally created in the 1960s, there are now roughly 14,000 throughout the country.
The Family Health Center of Southen Oklahoma in Tishomingo is a similar center with branches in Atoka and Coalgate.
“A lot of them were set up in inner-cities, and they’ve expanded over time to rural areas,” Myers said.
The clinic is currently considered a “look alike” clinic. After they’ve implemented necessary changes, expand and add services, then they get reevaluated for federally qualified health center status. The clinic now offers obstetrical care, health screenings, well-child services, case management, immunizations, family planning, preventative dental care, an after-hours nurse hotline and longer business hours among other services.
“It’s still tough to find family doctors and dentists,” Myers said. “This will help expand access. Anybody can come to Good Shepherd.”
They also added a walk-in clinic on Fridays. Other necessary services, like language translation services, were already in place. Myers said about 30 percent of the clinic’s patients are Hispanic.
The clinic offers services on a sliding price scale depending on a patient’s income. The clinic began accepting Soonercare patients in 2017 and added more rooms and staff to their facility this year.
“We still have a sliding fee like we did when we were a charity clinic, but now we can see anybody, anybody with insurance, Medicare or Medicaid.” Myers said.
The center’s hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and Friday from 8 a.m. to noon.