History and Relevancy

The Social Welfare Board of Buchanan County (SWB) is a not for profit healthcare clinic created by MO State Statute 205.770 in 1913. As the oldest free clinic in the United States, the founder garnered the support of local governments and community members. Equally as important, the founder persuaded the community’s physicians to treat the impoverished at no charge. The SWB provides the following clinics: primary medical, women’s health, dental,  behavioral health referrals and necessary specialty referrals. The clinic is centrally located in the historic Patee Health Market, 904 S. 10th, Suite A, St. Joseph, MO, Monday through Friday, 8 – 4:30. Uninsured individuals residing in Buchanan County with incomes 200% and below the federal poverty level are eligible for medical and dental services. Westside (women’s health & reproductive health) services are charged per a sliding fee schedule, with no geographical restrictions. The Social Welfare Board is committed to serving this primarily rural area where there are more access barriers to overcome, lower income levels, and higher percentages of uninsured.

The Social Welfare Board has earned a trusted reputation as the go to place for the uninsured in need.  The SWB is the only free clinic in Northwest MO. On January 3, 2011 the SWB implemented a certified electronic medical record (EMR), enhancing clinic processes and efficiency. On June 29, 2011 the SWB received notification the clinic earned the highest level of recognition from the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) as a Patient-Centered Health Medical Home; the first for any free clinic in the U.S. The NCQA seal is a reliable indicator for patients and consumers that the organization is effectively managed and delivers high quality care and service.  The clinic has maintained NCQA recognition.

Social Welfare Board in St. Joseph, MO

Annualized information regarding the clinic’s patients follow:

  • Each year at least 40% of the patients accessing services are new to the clinic
  • 20% have been with the clinic two or more years
  • 97% are 18 to 64 years of age
  • 82% are white, 10% are black, and 7% are Hispanic
  • 68% have completed high school including at least 15% with college education
  • 10% have no high school education
  • 70.45% are female; 29.55% are male
  • 82% have chronic illnesses such as diabetes or hypertension
  • 65% have experienced depression, anxiety, or some other psychiatric condition in the last year.

Unemployment in Buchanan County hovers around 4% with nearly 8,869 people at or below 100% of the Federal Poverty Level. 10,544 residents – 18-64 years of age are without health insurance. If the Social Welfare Board were not open 72% of our patients report they would go to the Emergency Room or not go to a physician or dentist at all, causing expensive treatment to the system when their conditions reach desperate.