Families talk about impact of poor health care in Wyandotte County

WYANDOTTE COUNTY, Kan. - At 46 years old, Tracie Davis suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure and arthritis.

"Just last week I was sick for a couple of days where I was too tired to get out of bed, my sugar was over 300 and at that point I was just exhausted," she said. 

Exhaustion is normal for Davis. The Wyandotte County mother lost her health insurance last year after she was laid off at Sprint. Without health insurance, her medicine would cost about $700 per month. She says she’s forced to take medicine form her family members.

"My grandmother is diabetic and my stepfather is diabetic and they tend to try to share their insulin with me to help me when my sugar is really high, and I can't get it from anywhere else. That takes away their quality of life because they're sharing their medicine with me," said Davis.

Communities Creating Opportunity, a local organization, is working to improve the health outcomes for people like Davis. Through their research, they’ve identified hotspots or zip codes where there is the highest concentration of chronically ill people who are underserved.

Research conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation revealed that Wyandotte County is one of the sickest counties in the state. The study took into account how long people live and their quality of life. Out of 101 counties, Wyandotte county ranked 94th.

"The result of all of this means that these individuals live shorter and sicker lives. This really robs individuals of their true potential," said Seft Hunter, Chief Operations Officer for CCO.

Individuals in these areas also rely heavily on emergency rooms and safety net clinics.

"I felt like I was turned away at every clinic and I had never used the clinic before," said Davis, who said her wait time for an appointment was three weeks.

"I don't know how much longer it can last like this without the insulin and just not having the insulin, I don't have life insurance,” she said.

Amy Falk, director of Caritas Clinics in Kansas City, Kan., said the clinics saw a 71 percent increase in patients from 2008 until 2013.

“We are paddling as fast as we can with the resources that we have,” she said.

Communities Creating Opportunity will hold a forum to discuss ways to improve health care in Wyandotte County at New Bethel Church at 745 Walker Ave. in Kansas City, Kan.

Jenna Hanchard can be reached at jenna.hanchard@kshb.com.

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