In July 2011, the minority health clinic in Buffalo County closed its doors. Located in Gibbon and only open two days per month, it was the only “free” clinic available in Buffalo County for individuals in need. Six months earlier, the clinic had lost grant direct services from the Nebraska Health and Human Services Office of Health Disparities and was now being funded by Good Samaritan Hospital. Though Good Samaritan encouraged the clinic to secure additional funding, no additional funding was secured and the clinic closed its doors.

Around this same time, the Community Health Access Team (CHAT) was developing Health HUB, an access-to-care model utilizing community health workers to assist 250 residents with diabetes care. By 2012, the first 50 clients of Health HUB reported more than $150,000 in medical debt. These factors and more lead physicians at a monthly Sentinel Health Care board meeting to discuss an assessment of our community’s need for a free clinic. Buffalo County Community Partners’ board of directors was invited to lead a community-wide assessment to determine the need for a community clinic.

Community Partners organized a group of community stakeholders to meet and determine the needs of the uninsured in Buffalo County. The group laid out patient numbers by organization, unpaid medical bills, no-show rates, emergency room use, hospital community benefit, clinic write-off, and population by income, race, ethnicity, and disease. The group decided to research models with the potential to impact at least 1,000 individuals annually.

This group of community stakeholders was named the Community Access Network (CAN) Team and was powered by Community Partners’ staff and supported under its coalition structure. The group worked to build an infrastructure that was inclusive of key stakeholders and innovative in utilizing the assets of Buffalo County. A case for support was drafted and funded by the Sherwood Foundation in early 2013.

The Sherwood Foundation provided planning funds for Community Partners to contract with Mark Rukavina of Community Health Advisors, LLC, to assist our community in planning. Mark completed a four phase plan to build a business plan for a free clinic. The phases with detail and timeline can be found below.

At the time of Mark’s completed business plan around February 2014, a new organization emerged to assist in developing a free clinic. Empowering Community Healthcare Outreach (ECHO), based in Fort Worth, TX, is a faith-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to empower churches and other community organizations to develop charitable healthcare clinics to serve the most vulnerable people in America. At this point, a planning team leader was named. Linda Muhlbach, the planning team leader, started working with ECHO and developed a board and committees.

After months of dedicated work, this group developed a viable plan and named the free clinic, the HelpCare Clinic. In April 2015, the doors opened and the volunteers saw their first patients. For more information on the clinic, visit the website at

Phase 1: Discovery – Completed

Timeline: June-September 2013

  • Analyze existing data
  • Key Stakeholder interviews
  • Group Interviews with community residents
View Phase 1 Findings.


Phase 2: Planning – Completed

Timeline: September-December 2013



Phase 3: Develop Agreements – Completed

Timeline: December 2013-January 2014

  • Continue planning with CAN Team, Community Partners Board, and other key stakeholders
  • Develop and disseminate communication plan
  • Establish agreement on core services, necessary procedures/operations, and budget to achieve vision


Phase 4: Finalize and Launch- Completed

Timeline: February 2014

  • Secure partnership agreements necessary to implement plan
  • Establish project roll-out milestones, develop and implement monitoring protocol to track results
  • Prepare launch of project


Who’s Involved?

Steering Committee:

  • Beth Baxter, Administrator, Region 3 Behavioral Health Services
  • Steph Burge, APRN, University of Nebraska Medical Center – Kearney (UNMC-K)
  • Meredith Collins, Deputy Director, Community Action Partnership of Mid Nebraska
  • Dr. Dennis Edwards, Vice President of Medical Affairs, Good Samaritan Hospital
  • Peggy Dobish, Office Manager, Kearney Clinic
  • Dave Glover, Clinic Manager, Family Practice, P.C.
  • Terry Krohn, Administrator, Two Rivers Public Health Department
  • Dr. Mike Lawson, Physician, Platte Valley Medical Group, P.C.
  • Tom McLeod, Administrator, Platte Valley Medical Group, P.C.
  • Linda Muhlbach, Office Coordinator, Kearney eFree Church
  • Lisa Reese Parish, Executive Director, United Way of the Kearney Area
  • Reverend Tim Peterson, Kearney eFree Church
  • Mike Schnieders, President, Good Samaritan Hospital
  • Dr. Kenton Shaffer, Physician at Kearney Clinic, P.C.
  • Carol Wahl, Vice President of Patient Care Services, Good Samaritan Hospital
  • Crystal Winfield, Executive Director, Sentinel Health Care
  • Julie Weir, Program Manager, Community Action Partnership of Mid Nebraska
  • Denise Zwiener, Executive Director, Buffalo County Community Partners

Team Members:

  • Von Alavi, Regional Administrator, Nebraska Health and Human Services
  • Jann Arlington, New Life Church
  • Chad Anderson, Trinity Presbyterian
  • Ariane Aten, Data Coordinator, Buffalo County Community Partners
  • Suzanne Brodine, Assistant City Manager, City of Kearney
  • Father Josh Brown, St. James Catholic Church
  • Jerry Bumgardner, Executive Director, Crossroads Center Rescue
  • Dean Buse, Community Outreach Coordinator, New Life Assembly
  • Drs. Mark and Kim Bush, Bush Family Dentistry
  • Rob Cunningham, Vice President, Ancillary, Good Samaritan Hospital
  • Roxanne Denny-Mickey, Program Director, Young Children Priority One (Dental Services)
  • Judy Drown, Parish Nurse, St. James Catholic Church
  • Sr. Doris Durant, Prince of Peace Catholic Church
  • Dr. James Fish, Platte Valley Medical Group
  • Nikki Gausman, Executive Director, SAFE Center
  • George Harms, Vice President of Finance, Good Samaritan Hospital
  • Dr. Hugo Gonzalez, Richard Young Hospital
  • Kathy Gosch, Facilitator, Buffalo County Health Ministry Network
  • Fr. Joe Hannappel, St. James Catholic Church
  • Rod Horsley, Administrator, South Central Area Agency on Aging
  • Laura Jensen, RN, Platte Valley Medical Group, P.C.
  • Joel Johnson, former state senator and retired physician
  • Cindy Kempt, RN, Monsanto
  • Pastor Dustin Lappe, Holy Cross Lutheran Church
  • Kathleen Larson, Faith United Methodist
  • Pastor Gary Main, First United Methodist Church
  • Sr. Rosemarie Maly, University of Nebraska Kearney Catholic Newman Center
  • Cindy Matson, APRN, University of Nebraska-Kearney Student Health Center
  • Pastor Matt Wolf, Gibbon Baptist
  • Dr. John McCammond, retired physician (Family Practice)
  • Marion McDermott, President, Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Dr. Matt Mims, Professor, Counseling and School Psychology Department, University of Nebraska at Kearney
  • J. William Musick, Vice President of Human Resources, Baldwin Filters
  • Father Jerry Ness, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
  • Paul O’Connell, Emergency Department Director, Good Samaritan Hospital
  • Jessie Perez, Health HUB Coordinator, Buffalo County Community Partners
  • Steve Pitken, Department Director, UNMC-Kearney
  • Dr. Carol Renner, Associate Superintendent, Kearney Public Schools
  • Sr. Patty Rinn, St. James Catholic Church
  • Judi Sickler, Executive Director, Kearney Area Community Foundation
  • Janet Steffen, Nurse Administrator, Family Practice Associates, P.C.
  • Ann Taylor-Trujillo, Administrator, Richard Young Hospital
  • Justine Tschetter, Kearney eFree Church
  • Dr. Betsy Turk, Lind Eye Care
  • Dr. William Vosik, Platte Valley Medical Group
  • Denise Waibel-Rycek, Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center – Kearney (UNMC-K)
  • Dr. David Wiebe, retired physician (Kearney Orthopedic and Fracture Clinic)

Others who have provided input:

  • Susan Aguilar, Third City Community Clinic, Grand Island
  • Tammy Fiala, Consumer Services, Region 3 Behavioral Health Services
  • Dr. J.M. Finkner, First Care
  • Sara Frias, Community Services Coordinator, Community Action Partnership of Mid-Nebraska
  • Mariana Hernandez, Community Health Worker, Sentinel Health Care
  • Carol Herron, Richard Young Hospital
  • Audra Hisey, Goodwill Industries
  • Karen Koch, RN-Diabetes, Sentinel Health Care
  • Susan Potter, Agency on Aging
  • Susan Puckett, RN, Kearney Public Schools
  • Jessica Ramirez, Interpreter/Translator
  • Tammy Ray, Agency on Aging
  • Carmen Royle, Community Health Worker, Sentinel Health Care
  • Susan Winchester, APRN-NP, Advanced Psychiatric Care

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