Nearly 10,000 Douglas County residents do not have health insurance, according to the Health Care Access 2000 annual report.
But the nonprofit health care facility for residents who have no health insurance and don't qualify for other medical programs is reaching only 10 percent of those people.
Pat Parker, president of the HCA board, attributed that lack of penetration to the availability of clinic hours and the inadequacy of word-of-mouth.
"That population typically has the least access to communication, including newspapers and television," he said. "They simply may not know our clinic is available."
The clinic attempts to inform eligible patients with outreach programs through various soup kitchens and the Salvation Army, Parker said. Lawrence also has a strong referral base, he said, with several of the HCA board members working at places like the Douglas County Health Department.
The HCA clinic, located at 1920 Moodie Road, provides primary health care as well as treatment for chronic problems and assistance with prescription medication and emergency dental work. It's supported by area resources, including private and corporate donations and more than 140 volunteer health professionals.
The clinic often refers patients to Lawrence Memorial Hospital and area specialists for services like X-rays and surgeries. Practitioners in Douglas County are extremely cooperative, said Robert Trepinski, LMH vice president of support services.
"Their donation of their time and efforts is critical," he said. "The benefit is a community taking care of itself. From a global view, if we don't take care of all the people that live in our vicinity, that's how illnesses and epidemics start."
LMH, which contributed $341,373 to HCA last year, sees the clinic as a win-win situation, Trepinski said.
"If Health Care Access didn't exist, our emergency room would be being used as a primary care office for people," he said. "That's neither healthy for them or the emergency department. They really should have a medical home."
The clinic served about 980 patients last year, and that number has been rising steadily since HCA's inception in 1988.
Increasing demand for medication has placed a strain on funding for more common medicines, such as antibiotics. Although pharmaceutical companies and area physicians donate some drug samples, and chronic patients can receive long-term medications through drug programs, the clinic relies on cash donations to provide medications for people who fall through the cracks.
The $20,000 set aside for that purpose this year is already gone, Parker said.
"We have to shut that program off at this point or obtain other resources, primarily from donations," he said.
Marilyn, a retired HCA patient from Eudora, receives medications from the clinic for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and gastro-intestinal complications. She went without health care for several years until she found out about HCA from a friend.
"I live on a fixed income and draw a widow's pension, so my resources are really limited," she said. "They've been very helpful and friendly. They seem to be really concerned about my health."
That's the goal, said Laurie Finley, medication assistance coordinator at the clinic.
"Our biggest goal is to treat everybody with dignity and respect," she said. "We have heard a lot from patients that they've never had anything like this experience. That is affirmation that we're doing our job."