Healthy Options for Kansas Communities, which has worked for more than a dozen years to serve the medical and dental needs of Planeview, has closed its doors.
The last day of business for the clinics was Aug. 6. Both were at 3620 E. Sunnybrook and served one of Wichita's poorest and most ethnically diverse neighborhoods.
"It was very clear that we couldn't go on and pay the next payroll," said Toni Pickard. She is a Wichita State University associate professor who started the clinic as an outgrowth of a class project and served as its executive director.
Twenty-eight staff members lost their jobs as a result of the closing. Pickard said many of them are showing up on a volunteer basis to help her wrap up operations and to return calls to those who've left messages in languages other than English.
Notices also will be sent to all patients, Pickard said.
The closing comes as a Wichita Visioneering group is releasing a report on community health priorities; one of the five priorities notes the need for access to care, and another focuses on oral health needs.
Pickard said the medical side of the operation had always been small, but the dental side has been busy since its opening four years ago. Patients came from as far away as Concordia and Garden City.
"That just says that there's a huge need, and I'm so sorry I wasn't able to continue filling that," she said.
Healthy Options patients are being referred to Hunter Health Clinic and GraceMed, both of which also offer dental services, and the Mother Mary Anne Clinic. Spokesmen said they hadn't seen an influx of patients as a result of the Planeview clinic's closing.
But it's unfortunate to see such a resource disappearing, said Dave Sanford, executive director of GraceMed.
"The care they gave was very important," he said.
Healthy Options for Kansas Communities was started 13 years ago by Pickard, who used it as a project for the public health classes she taught at WSU. Since then, students from other area colleges and universities have used it as a clinical rotation site, too.
"It's a loss in the teaching field as well," Pickard said. "That was always one of our missions... to prepare the next generation of health professionals."
From the start, the clinic has struggled financially. Pickard scrounged for supplies and volunteers as the clinic sought to provide services.