Midtown’s Care Clinic has evolved

care-clinicThere is finally a treatment that can cure hepatitis C, but at $120,000 for three months medication few can afford it.

The Kansas City Care Clinic has responded by enrolling patients in clinical trials that get them the medicine, officials reported Thursday.

There are an estimated 100,000 people in the area who need treatment, Dr. Craig A. Dietz reported to the city council in a business session.

Many do not know they have the disease that can severely damage livers or cause liver cancer.

People who are at risk include those born from 1945 to 1965, those who have ever injected illegal drugs, those with tattoos and those who got blood transfusions before blood testing started for the disease in 1992.

They can call the clinic and arrange to be tested.

Sheri Wood, clinic CEO, said they are exploring using the clinical trial approach to provide treatment for other diseases.

“The thing is we’ve got the patients that some of these research institutions need,” she said.

The clinic has come a long way, she said, since it was founded in 1971 as the Westport Free Health Clinic. In those days the small operation served hippies and others with no means to pay. One old clinic sign read: “a healthy hippie is a happy hippie.”

It became the Kansas City Free Health Clinic in 1986 and in 2001 moved to its current Midtown location at 3515 Broadway.

It changed its name last year to the care clinic and about 12 percent of its patients now have insurance, Wood reported.

But many will continue not to have it, she said, largely because Missouri and Kansas legislatures  refused to expand Medicaid coverage that was to be part of the Affordable Care Act.

The clinic now has a $12.5 million budget, with about $5.5 million in donated goods and services. Almost 80 percent of its patients are at 100 percent of the federal poverty level or below, she said, and 65 percent of patients live in Kansas City.

She noted that the care center’s big charity fundraiser is coming up on April 12.

“Night in Bloom,” a black-and-white costumed masquerade, will be at the Scottish Rite Temple at 1330 E. Linwood Blvd.

Tickets can be bought online.

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