KC CARE Health Center began serving the Kansas City community in 1971. They were known as the Westport Free Health Clinic, a group of volunteer medical and dental students providing no-cost care to community members in the lobby of the Alcazar Hotel.
In the late 1980s, the organization moved to the east side of Kansas City and changed its name to the Kansas City Free Health Clinic.
In the mid- to late 90s, KC CARE launched behavioral health services, expanded to 39th and Main, and became the lead agency in Kansas City responsible for building a system of HIV services in the region. They were the first healthcare provider in Western Missouri to offer confidential testing and counseling for people with HIV.
The clinic continued to add more services, expanding into what is known today as KC CARE Health Center. KC CARE’s presence in Kansas City now includes four locations: the primary location in Midtown 3501 Broadway, at Research Medical Campus, Homeroom Health at 30th and Troost, and in the Historic Northeast.
Operated by Dr. Elaine Joselyn for over 20 years, KC CARE’s Northeast location is located at 4601 Independence Avenue. Dr. Joselyn and her husband, David, lived in the Historic Northeast for many years. Upon Dr. Joselyn’s retirement, she and David relocated to the River Market neighborhood. They chose KC CARE to preserve their legacy, trusting KC CARE’s history of providing unconditional whole-person care to the underserved and everyone in their community.
Rocio Garcia, Patient Services Supervisor, and Karen Leuenberger, Physician Assistant, have both been serving patients at KC CARE’s location in the Historic Northeast since Dr. Joselyn’s practice operated there. Retaining much of the staff from Dr. Joselyn’s practice allowed the KC CARE location to maintain its reputation as a true neighborhood family clinic.
As KC CARE’s Associate Clinical Director of Advanced Practice Dr. Michelle Goss says, “Karen Leuenberger has quite the following.” Dr. Goss further sings the praises of Yesenia Beltran, a bilingual nurse practitioner at the Historic Northeast location who is bridging the care gap for many patients who are best served in Spanish.
Services available at KC CARE’s location in the Historic Northeast include primary care, pediatrics, testing and screening, sexual health, behavioral health, HIV services, and community services.
KC CARE also operates a pharmacy with 340B federal pricing at their Midtown location and offers dental services at their Research Medical Campus and Homeroom Health locations.
“We have an emphasis on quality care for anyone who walks through our doors, regardless of ability to pay,” said Dr. Kelsey Ryan, who specializes in sexual and reproductive health at KC CARE. “If a patient walks through the door and they are uninsured, we have dedicated workers at our clinic who can sign them up for Medicaid if they are eligible.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, KC CARE began offering telehealth, patient care that is offered via phone, tablet, or computer that virtually connects patients to healthcare providers. Telehealth uses HIPAA-compliant technology (to protect patient privacy) and can be adapted for use with landlines if needed.
Although COVID-19 vaccines have made it safer for many patients to return to in-person medical visits, telehealth remains a popular option as it eliminates the need for transportation to and from appointments. Telehealth is available to new and existing patients and serves those who are insured, underinsured, and uninsured.
“Being a community health center, a lot of our patients have challenges with transportation, and sometimes, coming for four visits even in a 12-month time span is really difficult,” KC CARE’s President and CEO Wil Franklin said. “Sometimes people are choosing to go to the doctor’s office over other important needs. Having this telehealth option would be a long-term gain in terms of access.”
“KC CARE is open for business, and we want to serve our patient base,” KC CARE’s Associate Medical Director Dr. Blair Thedinger said. “We want to make sure they get what they need in terms of their medical care and one new option for doing that is telehealth and we are going to use it as much as we can, whenever it’s appropriate.”
Whether you are seeking an annual physical, a sexual and reproductive health wellness exam, childhood immunizations, behavioral healthcare, or support navigating the healthcare and insurance systems, KC CARE wants residents of the Historic Northeast to know that they are here to meet those needs.
To schedule a visit and find out if the services you need are available via telehealth, call 816.753.5144. To learn more about all the services KC CARE has to offer, visit KCCARE.org.