Free COVID-19 testing available in underserved KC communities

Organizers focused on public health, nonprofit initiative
COVID-19 Testing
Posted at 5:46 AM, Feb 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-02 07:01:26-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Available COVID-19 testing continues to be a hurdle for parts of Kansas City, but one small team is doing its part to improve accessibility.

Dr. Allison Edwards of Kansas City Direct Primary Care first identified a COVID-19 testing problem, and solution, when the pandemic began.

"We decided to get together and try and solve the problem, through a more of a public health community-based effort," she said.

She got together with Jay Austin, a "decarceration" activist in Kansas City.

"I started thinking about why this would matter for the population that I tend to work with when I work on criminal justice reform," he said.

Then they got together with Heart to Heart International. The result was COVID-19 testing for under-served communities.

"As of November we completed over 5,000 tests, at no charge to community members, and we've served various locations across the metro, both sides of State Line, both within Kansas City into the suburbs and into the outlying communities," Dr. Edwards said.

Diter Aguilar is seeing the impact firsthand as pastor at La Fe Kansas City.

"I think it’s very critical, many of our people within our community, do not have insurance. They live, you know paycheck to paycheck because they don't have insurance," he said.

They’ve made progress, but they say there’s more work to do.

"It’s been difficult, to say the least. It's a supply-demand issue," Austin said.

They're ready for the next frontier in the pandemic.

"Our ambition would be to partner with the local health department, with the states to be able to get vaccines into those areas. So we can see vaccine rates increase all over the metro," Edwards said.

The team wants to continue the public health, nonprofit effort for those communities.

"With Latinos dealing with them, they aren’t always are open to go to hospitals, because of things that they've heard, but there's, they're a little bit more safer and feel more comfortable coming to maybe a church or community where other people have gone," Aguilar said.

They say their work will continue after the pandemic has passed.

"My entire mission in being a physician is to make sure that we call out the inequities in the healthcare system. And so that is my ambition, long term, is to always stand up and say, this is where there's gaps. These are where there are holes," Edwards said.

Kansas City North Community Center, the testing site featured in the 41 Action News coverage, has free testing the next three Thursdays (Feb. 4, 11, 18) from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Walk-up and drive-up testing are available.