The Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas stands as a testament to the power of community collaboration and unwavering dedication. From humble beginnings, this remarkable organization has grown into a beacon of hope, providing essential medical services to thousands of individuals and families across the region.
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How CHC/SEK began
The Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas goes back to 1997 with the opening of the Family Resource Center–a collaborative project of the hospital, school district, and university to ensure children were “ready to learn.” In 2003 it became its own nonprofit organization committed to providing medical, dental, and mental health care regardless of ability to pay.
Working out of a doublewide trailer at 1700 N. Locust with a handful of staff, a large closet at Wesley House with very used dental equipment and a small office in Frontenac, it provided care to about 8,000 patients – mostly women and children. Local physicians contracted for services including obstetrics which attracted a young family physician – Dr. Linda Bean – who joined staff during residency and now serves as its Chief Medical Officer. While she no longer practices full-time, she continues to provide obstetrical coverage and was recognized in 2022 as the Kansas Family Physician of the Year.
From these very humble beginnings, CHC/SEK has grown to being the largest community health center in Kansas and the 15th largest rural CHC in the nation providing care to more than 75,000 patients – one-third of these under the age of 18. Our service area covers more than 6,300 sq. miles of Southeast Kansas and Northeast Oklahoma with 15 full-service sites. We have staff in 31 school districts, four county correctional facilities and an active presence in multiple long-term care facilities. Five – soon to be six – of our clinics have an in-house pharmacy, two have CT scanners and 3-D mammography and, combined, we are open more than 2,020 hours per week. Pittsburg is our largest and busiest location with Walk-In Care seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Altogether, we now employ almost 900 including more than 170 health providers.
Recent accomplishments include being named a Million Hearts Champion — one of nine organizations in the U.S. to have more than 80% of its patients with hypertension in control, the complete renovation of a former grocery store in Fort Scott for a state-of-the-art clinic, and the construction of the John Ugo Parolo Education Center in Pittsburg dedicated to growing and supporting future health care professionals.
The community’s role in the Community Health Center
None of this would have been possible without the support of our local community who funded the construction of our main clinic at 3011 N. Michigan and have continued to support our efforts, our 15-member all-volunteer Board of Directors and an amazing staff dedicated to “doing all the good we can in all the ways we can.”
CEO Krista Postai describes the impact that Rita Bicknell and the Women’s Health Fund have had on CHC/SEK: “Rita inspired us all to think bigger and find ways to impact the lives of women in Southeast Kansas. Toward that end, we brought mammography into our Pittsburg clinic at 1011 Mt. Carmel Place – named in honor of Rita — to make sure all women have access to cancer screening.”
And CHC continues to grow. Recognizing that 90% of the well-being of an individual and a community is based on meeting basic needs, future projects include expansion of public transportation, a “Food is Medicine” initiative, and even housing construction on former land bank properties.
Says Postai: “This is healthcare the way it should be.”