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Access to Care

Health Clinics At Transit Stops? St. Louis Takes A Look

Riders wait for the St. Louis light rail. The transit authority is considering building health clinics at some transit stops.
Dourrie Bouscaren
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Riders wait for the Metro train at a station beneath Grand Avenue in Midtown St. Louis.

Two Metro passes and a flu shot, please.

The company that operates Metro Transit St. Louis – the public transit system for the city and surrounding area – is looking into the possibility of building health clinics at light rail stops, particularly in low-income areas north of the city. Project manager John Wagner says the concept makes sense; the stops are easy to get to, there’s parking and they get a lot of foot traffic.

This story was produced by St. Louis Public Radio.

“It would be using existing infrastructure that’s already in place,” Wagner said. “We couldn’t find any negative aspects of it.”

The Missouri Foundation for Health has awarded a $41,900 grant to the Bi-State Development Agency, of which Metro Transit St. Louis is a part, so its research arm can conduct a feasibility study for the concept. Wagner says he is looking into which stops would work best, where funding could come from and what services would be provided. The agency is particularly interested in north St. Louis County, where access to healthcare is limited.

“Be it a pharmacy, a dentist, an optometrist in addition to regular medical care … as well as what form it would take. Would it be in the form of a mobile unit, or a more permanent bricks and mortar type structure or perhaps something in between?” Wagner said.  

A quick canvass of people waiting for trains at the station underneath Grand Boulevard in midtown on Monday suggests the idea is welcome. A young couple with grocery bags, a high school student and a woman fighting cancer all said they liked the idea of a clinic, and that they would probably use it.

“People do actually need it. Having them at a common place where a lot of people go to get to work and school and home, it’ll be beneficial to a lot of people,” said Keshun Payne, a 17 year-old theater arts student who uses the light rail to get to school, work and back home.  

Rob Fruend of the St. Louis Regional Health Commission says that especially in north St. Louis County, access to low-cost healthcare is limited. The RHC manages Gateway to Better Health, a health program that provides primary care and other clinical services to uninsured adults at community health centers in St. Louis City and County.

 Nearly half of Gateway’s members live in the county, Fruend said.  

“We don’t have the number of primary care sites in the county as we do in the city, and that’s historical. The poverty really shifted over the past 10 years, so pockets of our county became more poor over the past ten years. But the money to expand community health centers isn’t like it used to be,” Fruend said.

Bi-State Development’s feasibility study for clinics is scheduled to wrap up by May of 2016.

Follow Durrie Bouscaren on Twitter: @durrieB.