After more than 15 years of providing health care for some of Cobb County’s most vulnerable populations, Kennesaw State University officials have decided that it is no longer feasible for the WellStar College of Health and Human Services to run the KSU Clinic at MUST Ministries. The university ceased operations of the clinic Friday, July 19.
Following discussions and notification to MUST Ministries President and CEO Dr. Ike Reighard, Kennesaw State President Daniel S. Papp formally expressed his regrets about having to make the decision to cease KSU’s operation of the clinic.
“I am sorry that we must take this action, but a combination of factors has led to this decision,” Papp conveyed. “The clinic has performed a valuable community service for over 15 years, and we value our relationship with MUST Ministries. We will find other ways to continue our collaboration as both of our institutions move forward.”
In response to the announcement, Reighard praised the work of Kennesaw State, the WellStar College of Health and Human Services and its School of Nursing, and he indicated that MUST Ministries will continue to provide access to health care. Reighard confirmed that his organization already is in talks with a number of potential partners interested in delivering the clinic services, and noted that he and his staff are moving quickly to find a qualified replacement.
“Our goals are to improve the quality of life for people recovering from homelessness, to reduce emergency department visits and to raise awareness of the needs of the underserved,” Reighard said. “The KSU team has been effective in providing tangible outcomes for their patients who are our clients. There is no doubt that they have enhanced the health of the medically disadvantaged, and we are grateful for their service.”
What started as a collaboration among several community organizations, including the WellStar School of Nursing, became the sole purview of Kennesaw State in 2003. The University’s WellStar College of Health and Human Services accepted primary responsibility including patient prescriptions and an attending physician, nurse practitioners and staff. A state-of-the-art facility was made available when MUST Ministries relocated to a new building in Marietta and with the expanded presence came an increase demand for care.
According to WellStar College of Health and Human Services Dean Richard Sowell, it cost about $200,000 a year to operate the clinic, which was supported by using university endowment funds, writing grants and solicitation of donations.
“As state money cannot be used to run the clinic, we simply no longer have the means to do so,” said Sowell.
Existing clinic patients have been informed about the impending closing. While there will be an interruption in service delivery, KSU clinic staff and staff at MUST Ministries are working with the patients to help them identify other health care options that might be available to them.
The clinic provided office visits, phone consultations and prescription refills to the under-insured, as well as the uninsured. It also provided Kennesaw State nursing and social work students with hands-on experience.
“What was unique about this situation was our ability to customize the clinical experience for our students at the clinic,” Sowell said. “But even with the clinic closing, our students will not suffer. We will find clinical experiences for them.”
MUST Ministries’ and KSU’s leadership both hope to identify other ways for the two long-time collaborators to continue to serve as community partners, even after the clinic operations cease. “This has been a wonderful partnership, and we have the greatest respect for MUST Ministries,” Sowell stated. “Hopefully there will be another clinic established there soon, and we are certainly willing do to whatever we can to support them.”