Nonprofits join Partnership Health Center in week of outreach, celebration

Joe Lanza with the Missoula Food Bank, left, chats with Poverello Center employees Anastasia Bakos, center, and Sam Hilliard during National Health Center Week, held Monday at the Partnership Health Center in Missoula. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

More than 15,000 patients last year combined for 65,000 visits to Partnership Health Center in Missoula and its offices in Seeley Lake and Superior – enough to keep the clinic’s 220 employees busy year round.

On Monday, as part of Community Health Center Week, the growing clinic launched a weeklong celebration to thank its patients and staff, and to unite the city services that work hand-in-hand to improve community health.

“We offer health services, but oftentimes our patients need additional support, whether that’s housing support, jobs support or grief counseling,” said Barb Schott, a clinical case manager at Partnership. “We’ve decided to invite a lot of our community agencies that help our clients to educate our patients on the services they offer.”

Organizations from across Missoula set up booths around the clinic on Monday as patients came and went from their medical appointments. From the Missoula Job Service to the United Way, each organization shares a common interest with the clinic and the patients it serves.

Joe Lanza with the Missoula Food Bank described the partnership as mutually beneficial to the community. Anastasia Bakos, an outreach coordinator with the Poverello Center, agreed.

“It’s important because we’re all trying to make Missoula a better place for everyone,” said Bakos. “When we can get together and share the vast resources we have and that people need, it gives those people a better understanding of what’s available in Missoula.”

While the Partnership Health Center has grown to open satellite offices in Seeley Lake and Superior, it also operates a clinic within the Poverello Center four days a week. The shelter, in turn, provides respite to those discharged from medical care.

The shelter’s Homeless Outreach Team also works closely with the clinic as it attempts to reach shelter-resistant members of the homeless community.

“We work a ton with Partnership to coordinate services with people who aren’t necessarily staying in the shelter, but are obviously still in a health crisis,” said Sam Hilliard, a member of the outreach team. “We meet them where they’re at, and fortunately this place exists so we have somewhere to take them to get better.”

Not long ago, Partnership was viewed as a free clinic serving middle-aged adults at the lower end of the income spectrum. But with changes to the nation’s health care system, an $8 million renovation and a family medical residency program, the clinic’s reputation has evolved.

As of last year, Partnership’s operating budget stood at $22 million and its staff of 45 physicians saw more than 15,000 unique patients for a combined 65,000 visits. The pharmacy prescribed 90,000 medications in 2015, making it one of Montana’s largest.

“We provide medical, dental and behavioral care, and we have a pharmacy, so we provide all those services,” said finance director Jan Thomas. “Our mission is to provide services to the under-insured and the under-served individuals in our community.”

PHC is a part of a national network of primary care providers to more than 25 million Americans, including more than 106,000 Montanans.

Events this week include:

Kids Day on Wednesday, Aug. 16. Kids who visit PHC will receive stickers and temporary tattoos.

Patient Day on Thursday, Aug. 17. Snacks and giveaways will be provided to PHC patients.

Staff Day on Friday, Aug. 18. PHC will be celebrating their staff and the work they do for our community by hosting a staff picnic.

Satellite locations in Seeley Lake and Superior will also host ice cream socials and will be providing giveaways and snacks to patients throughout the week.