River Valley celebrates first anniversary

By Pat Sunderland


River Valley celebrates first anniversary | Business, Olathe

Photo submitted Three new providers recently joined River Family Family Health Center. Providers include (back row, left to right) Rachel Stranathan PA-C, CDE, Shawna Mcelroy PA-C, Dr. Reinmund, GYN, Dr. Van Gemert, Dr. Shelton; (front row) Whitney Silva

Since moving into its new location on Olathe's Main Street, River Valley Family Health Center has seen over a thousand new patients. To keep pace with the rapid growth, a second location will open in Montrose next month. That's good news for Delta area patients, because more slots are opening up -- usually with little waiting time.

River Valley Family Health Center has also expanded providers from three to eight, all of whom are committed to quality integrated health care for individuals and families.

The clinic is located at 308 Main Street in Olathe and features a 6,000-square-foot building with 10 exam rooms. As a federally qualified health center, River Valley offers health care and mental health services to families with Medicaid, Medicare, CHP+, CICP, most private insurances and most importantly, those without insurance. Patients without insurance can qualify for a sliding fee scale to receive medical services at a discounted price. The outreach and enrollment specialists will help those individuals apply for Medicaid and insurance on Connect for Health, the state's health insurance marketplace. The same specialists help with food stamps, housing assistance and other needs, as well.

"We don't turn anyone away," said Debby Harrison-Zarkis, chief executive officer.

The comprehensive list of clinic services includes family health, well women exams, colorectal screening exams, lab testing, emergency room follow-ups, care of patients with acute and chronic illnesses, CDL/DOT physicals, well child exams and physicals, and treatment of minor injuries.

At every appointment, River Valley's providers take the time to fully explain treatment options and offer helpful techniques for managing symptoms.

Each morning, they "huddle" to go over appointments for the day, discuss what services/labs will be needed, and review test results, so when the patients walk through the door their needs can be fully met. The facility was designed to keep the lines of communication open, with medical providers in a central "pod," seated next to their nursing staff. Exam rooms are spaced around the perimeter.

In the pod, patient health navigator May Lou Garcia checks in by phone with patients with chronic conditions such as hypertension and diabetes, reminding them about check-ups and lab tests.

"We care about them, we care about their health," Harrison-Zarkis said.

Jeannie Mueller, chief medical officer, is a certified physician assistant, certified diabetes educator and registered dietitian. As a physician assistant, she is able to prescribe, diagnose and treat all types of illnesses, with a focus on preventive medicine.

"There's been a huge turnaround in the direction of health care," Mueller said. Through education, classes, and the focused efforts of a patient health navigator, River Valley Family Health Center helps patients understand how to take charge of their health issues. Class participants learn healthy eating habits to lose weight or control their diabetes. CALM (Coping with Anxiety and Learning Mindfulness) is a skills-based group teaching relaxation and stress reduction techniques. Relaxation can help relieve the symptoms of chronic pain, insomnia, high blood pressure, headaches and irritable bowel syndrome. Adults living with any type of pain or chronic pain issue will benefit from the support, training and skills shared during the "Living Well with Pain" class.

Henry Grater found the medical home he was looking for when he discovered River Valley Family Health Center. "I didn't want to be treated like a number," he said. "I wanted a place that would treat me more like family."

Grater had a severe weight problem, which in turn was causing other health concerns. With the support of Rachel Stranathan, PA-C and certified diabetes educator, he has dropped over 120 pounds. He now serves on the health center's board of directors.

"As a Medicaid patient, it was so hard to find a doctor," he said. "River Valley Family Health Center has been a blessing to me and to many others."

"I was afraid if I didn't get my health back on track, I wouldn't see my daughter graduate."

"We've had a lot of success stories just like Henry's," Harrison-Zarkis said. Due to a lack of health insurance, many of the health center's patients have put off seeing a doctor. When they come to the clinic, they often have complex medical issues, including mental health problems.

Henry says he was one of those patients. "When you have mental health issues, a lot of doctors don't want to work with you."

River Valley Family Health Center has partnered with the Center for Mental Health to provide mental and behavioral health services, as well as primary health care.

Harrison-Zarkis explains there is often a stigma associated with visiting a mental health clinic. Grater agrees. "I didn't want to be seen going in and out of a mental health office. With both in the same office, it's a great thing."

Another valued partner is All Points Transit, which provides transportation from Delta to the clinic in Olathe. Details are available by calling 249-0128.

Health care is constantly evolving, and River Valley Family Health Center is excitedly embracing those changes. If you've been struggling to find a health care provider in these changing times, give River Valley Family Health Center a call at 323-6141 or visit the facility's website at rivervalleyfhc.com.

"We want to be the place you come to for quality integrated health care," Harrison-Zarkis said.