Charles Sloan knows what it’s like to try to manage a chronic health condition without a regular doctor.
Sloan used to wait in line at a clinic in Albany. Sometimes, he’d wait an hour-and-a-half and still not get in. And when he did see a doctor, it was only for a few minutes, and they didn’t know him or his health history.
“You never knew who you were going to see,” Sloan recalled. “For someone who needs medication and to see a doctor, it was scary.”
But everything changed seven years ago when Sloan became a patient at Benton Health Center, one of four Community Health Centers serving people Benton and Linn counties. Sloan, who works at a health club in Corvallis and is a father of four, has kidney stones, and was eventually diagnosed with kidney disease. But with the right medications and the guidance of his care team, he’s learned how to manage the disease.
“My overall experience has been 100 percent positive,” Sloan said. “It’s a great place to be a patient.”
The Community Health Centers of Benton and Linn Counties are an integral partner in the regional Coordinated Care Organization and a statewide leader in the delivery of integrated health care.
The Health Centers use care teams, a proactive and preventive approach to medicine. As a patient-centered medical home, people have access to primary care, mental health, public health, dental and pharmacy services.
“I’ve been places where I’ve fallen through the cracks,” Sloan said. “But I don’t feel that way here.”
As Federally Qualified Health Centers, Benton Health Center and the other clinics are accessible to anyone, with or without health insurance. Through partnerships with other local health care organizations, patients can also receive referrals for specialty care when needed.
A few years ago, Sloan had some lab work done for a routine check-up. His primary care provider, Michael McCusker, PA-C, was concerned with the results.
“He said, “There’s something really wrong,’” Sloan said.
McCusker referred Sloan to a kidney specialist who diagnosed him with kidney disease. Sloan said he doesn’t want to think what might have happened if McCusker hadn’t been so thorough.
In addition to the highly skilled primary care providers, patients also get assistance from health navigators, who offer information, resources and support with health decisions. These navigators can arrange follow-up care and access medical services for patients, and they teach people how to manage health conditions.
Sloan said it made a difference that care team knew him so well. McCusker asks him about his conditions, and even if it’s been a few months since his last appointment, he remembers what’s going on.
“He takes time to really talk to you and not rush you,” Sloan said. “I feel like the staff know me.”
Kristin Bradford, MD, MPH, Medical Director of the Health Centers, said that the patient-centered approach has revolutionized medical practices. They’ve seen positive results and improvements, such as fewer hospitalizations, patients learning to manage their health conditions and more people getting routine health screenings.
“It’s the very basic things that can make a big difference,” Bradford said.
To learn more about becoming a patient at the Community Health Centers of Benton and Linn Counties, call the clinic in your community: Benton Health Center (Corvallis) 541-766-6835; Lincoln Health Center (South Corvallis) 541-766-3546; Monroe Health Center 541-487-5143; East Linn Health Center (Lebanon) 541-451-6920. Once you are established with a primary care provider, it is often possible to get a same-day appointment.