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The United Community Health Center (UCHC) began as a grassroots community action plan that came about due to a growing awareness that our community was growing, and the historical population demographic was changing.

A steering committee formed of community volunteers that felt a strong need to provide more affordable health care access to a growing lower income and uninsured population. With the help of community partners such as Upper Des Moines Opportunity, and countless other organizations and key individuals, the committee applied for Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) status from the federal government, and incorporation status in the state of Iowa.

United Community Health Center received its FQHC nonprofit status in the period between late 2004 through 2005 and was awarded a federal grant to help with operating costs for its first year. UCHC opened its doors in a leased building at 630 Ontario Street on March 31, 2006, providing medical services only.

In its first three years, UCHC providers saw 7,723 patients in over 18,000 visits. The medical patient population was growing rapidly and the significant need for dental services for the low income and uninsured was identified as well. In 2008, UCHC’s board of directors and CEO, along with key financing partners here in Storm Lake, developed a plan to build a new facility at 715 W. Milwaukee Avenue in Storm Lake and broke ground on that project in August 2008.

The new clinic opened in July of 2009 with new state of the art medical and dental equipment and exam rooms. Both clinics began seeing patients and oral health joined our primary care clinic as a key provider of these services to the Buena Vista and Sac county areas. The sliding fee discount program and reduced prescription prices for patients became an important resource for many uninsured and underinsured patients.

The dental clinic population expanded significantly again in 2013 after the expansion of Medicaid eligibiliy regulations in the state of Iowa and the initiation of the Iowa Wellness Plan.. Few private providers accept Medicaid insurance and therefore, there is a large area that our dental clinic serves.

The dental patient population grew to the point that plans began to expand the dental facility in late 2014 with construction beginning in the spring of 2015. Four additional exam rooms were added in that expansion creating increased access for dental patients. The clinic has since grown even more

and a second dentist and two additional hygienists were hired to meet the ever increasing demand for oral care.

Since the inception of our clinic back in 2006, there have been need assessments conducted by many health care organizations locally and across the state and nation. Most indicate a lack of access to behavioral health care and substance use disorder services. United Community started in it’s very early days to find ways to provide behavioral health services and partnered with several local agencies to help where it

could. In 2018, UCHC hired its first Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner and a clinic was started. Mental illness diagnosis and medication management services were offereed as well as Medication Assisted Therapy (MAT) to help those with medication addictions. Counseling services were still largely referred out to area providers as we had yet to hire a licensed therapist..

There was little room in our medical clinic for the behavioral health clinic to grow and the medical clinic itself was outgrowing its space as we added a second physician in 2018 to join our existing medical team of two nurse practitioners and a medical director / physician. Plans began for an expansion of the medical clinic to add four additional exam rooms and an expanded lab and nurse work area. Also included in the expansion was a new behavioral health wing to make

room for anticipated growth. Work on that project began in 2019 and occupancy was taken in the spring of 2020.

United Community has come a long way in its short history. New services are being added regularly and the staff and board members are constantly finding ways to meet the needs of the health center’s patients. A

nother expansion initiative is currently under way, once again in our dental clinic. Work on that project includes adding three exam rooms and a larger sterilizer laboratory all intended to increase patient access to oral health services. This project and the implementation of a new health record system is anticipated to be completed in 2023.

Growth and change are a big part of our history and also the ability to adapt to ever changing health care needs of not only our local community but the surrounding areas as well. So much has happened since our first patient walked through the front doors on Ontario Street! The number of patients that have had their lives enriched and enhanced by United Community Health Center and its staff is staggering! That is our mission and the way we do it…one patient at at time.