Be in the Know: National HIV Testing Day

badge-national-hiv-testing-dayThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other healthcare agencies, including Swope Health Services, are partnering to raise awareness about HIV with National HIV Testing Day on June 27.

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. This is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system and is spread through body fluids.

This virus can lead to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, better known as AIDS.

It’s important to know if you have the virus so you can be treated. It’s important because once you have HIV, the virus stays in your body forever.

It’s important because there is no cure for AIDS, but it can be controlled with proper care.

“At SHS, HIV testing is available every day,” said Dan Gillen, Nurse Practitioner in Adult Medicine, and Director of Medical Informatics. “We encourage everyone to get tested. It is important to know if you are HIV positive so you can start treatment and prevent giving HIV to others.”

He continued, “Once you know your HIV status, you can make decisions based on facts. If you test negative for HIV – you don’t have HIV – you can make healthy decisions to avoid getting HIV. If you test positive for HIV – you have HIV – you can get connected to the resources and providers to help treat it as soon as possible.”

HIV info sheet

Click the image to download an HIV information sheet (PDF)

SHS partners with the Kansas City CARE Clinic, which specializes in HIV and AIDS primary care.

Services include disease monitoring and treatment, clinical and behavioral research and a range of supporting services like health education, peer support, counseling and case management.

HIV testing is important also because more than a million people in the U.S. are living with HIV, but one in seven of them don’t know they have it, according to

And, the CDC reports that African Americans account for a higher percentage of HIV and AIDS diagnoses compared to other racial or ethnic populations.

If you are interested in learning your HIV status, come in for a visit. HIV testing is available during regular hours with a walk-in or scheduled appointment.

The test is fast and confidential, and takes only a small amount of blood to screen for antibodies, the telltale signs of the virus. If the test is positive, typically a second test is ordered to make sure. Testing is covered by most insurance programs and may be free to qualified individuals.

Call 816-923-5800 to make an appointment or walk-in and talk with your provider about any questions you have about HIV and AIDS. We’re here to help.

Make it Bright: It’s a Great Time to Reach for Salads!

appetizer-bell-peppers-cilantro-128391Now that it’s really springtime, it’s time to add some color to your meals. Break some rules!

“It’s a great time to reach for salads,” said Ozella Jones, Nutritionist at Swope Health Services. “I like to encourage using leftovers in salads and making a bright salad.”

She recommends using leftovers in salad, even though they might not be traditional salad fare. For example, leftover green beans, peas, corn or beets make great additions to a green salad.

Cut up with some onions and red, green or yellow peppers and toss with some oil and vinegar, and you’ve got a brand new healthy salad.

Salad making is one place where you can safely experiment and make something that’s filled with your favorites. Do you like blueberries? Go ahead, put them in the salad with anything else you like.

Using leftovers is a great way to avoid wasting food and also an easy way to add nutrition. That ½ cup of leftover peas isn’t really enough for another meal, but it will provide 4 grams of protein and only 67 calories, she said. If you toss it in with lettuce, carrots, onions and whatever else you like, suddenly you’ve got a very tasty and nutritious salad.

“If it looks good, bright and colorful, you are more likely to try it,” she said. “I want you to feel good about your food and try foods that are healthy for you.”

If salad’s just not your thing, consider smoothies as a way to enjoy fruits and vegetables. “Strawberries are a good source of Vitamin C, and blueberries are a great way to get antioxidants,” she said.

Spring vegetables, like asparagus, are plentiful now. Just one cup of asparagus provides a low 32 calories along with plenty of Vitamin C and D, she said. You can also get vitamins from herbs, like basil. Just adding fresh basil leaves to your meal adds color and flavor, as well as potassium and Vitamin C.

For a main dish that might be a little bit lighter fare, try fish. Ozella recommends halibut and salmon, even canned tuna in water, as options offering the good kind of unsaturated fat – Omega 3.

“It’s time to break away from bland,” she recommends. “Go for color! Use what you like and make it attractive.”

Are you interested in learning more about your own nutrition? SHS Providers can refer patients for nutrition consultation. Ask your SHS provider at your next appointment.

Rainbow Fresh Chopped Salad

Prefer Following a Recipe? Here’s an easy one from Colorful Recipes:


  • Mixed Greens – 2 cups.
  • Chicken – Rotisserie, ½ cup, chopped.
  • Chickpeas or Garbanzo beans – ½ cup, drained from can.
  • Cherry Tomatoes – ½ cup, halved.
  • Snacking Cucumbers – 2, sliced.
  • Sweet Peppers – ¾ cup, chopped.
  • Red Onion – ¼ cup, chopped.
  • Avocado – ½, chopped.
  • Artichoke Hearts – ½ cup, quartered.
  • Fetta – ¼ cup, crumbled.
  • Cilantro – to taste, chopped.
Simple Dressing
  • Lemon – ½ or to taste, juiced.
  • Olive Oil – to taste.
  • Freshly Cracked Pepper – to taste.
  • Sea Salt – to taste.
  1. In a serving dish, lay the mixed greens in a flat layer.
  2. Arrange the remaining salad ingredients on top of the greens in sections as desired.
  3. Top off with chopped cilantro and dressing ingredients.
  4. Enjoy! ?

Primary Care Health Home: Where the Heart Is

Patient Care Coordination (1)

Mary Patterson-Lawson, L.P.N., Patient Care Coordinator, left, meets with Melanie Chaffin, R.N., Nurse Care Manager, about providing social services for a Primary Care Health Home primary care patient.

Every month, more than 700 patients participate in Swope Health Services’ “Primary Care Health Home” program for primary care.

What is a Primary Care Health Home?

“It means we are the home for our participants to receive their healthcare and assistance with managing their chronic diseases,” said Brittney Hazley, SHS Health Care Home Director. “It’s like having a family member inside SHS.”

The program is open to anyone insured under MO HealthNet, Missouri’s Medicaid program, who have certain diagnoses.

A diagnosis of obesity or diabetes will qualify, as will a combination of any of the following: hypertension, anxiety, depression, tobacco use, asthma or any cardiovascular disease.

The purpose of the program is to help patients live healthier lives, Brittney said.

“We want to understand the patient’s situation so we can find out what they need and provide resources to help,” said Brittney.

That help might include arranging transportation, scheduling appointments, assisting with referrals to specialists, obtaining medical records and coordinating care within and outside of SHS.

Patient Care Coordination (2)

Care coordination is an important part of the Primary Care Health Home program. Here Natalie Myer, R.N., consults with Susan Livengood, M.S.N, R.N., to make sure a patient’s healthcare records are up to date.

The services can include education about chronic conditions for the patient and family, as well as support from a nutritionist, diabetic education program, tobacco cessation program and behavioral health programs.

“We’ll do whatever we can to help the patient take ownership of their healthcare,” Brittney said. “We want patients to be empowered to take control of their health.”

The National Committee on Quality Assurance, a private not-for-profit organization, reports the program is working. In Missouri, rates of hospitalization and emergency room visits have declined by 14 percent and 19 percent, respectively, for patients in the program, and patients are demonstrating better management of their chronic conditions.

For example, between 2012 and 2015, the percentage of patients with diabetes who had controlled blood glucose levels increased to 61 percent, from 18 percent, according to a report on Missouri healthcare homes.

SHS has offered the program since 2012 and is now planning to expand the initiative to its satellite clinics. Once patients enroll in the program, they are encouraged to stay in touch at least monthly with their care team, which includes three Nurse Care Managers, a Patient Care Coordinator, a Behavioral Health Consultant and the Director.

“We work on building rapport and trust,” said Brittney. “We want to make it easier for our patients to manage their chronic conditions.”

It’s time for your flu shot!

flu season

From left, Sheila Shipley, Infection Control Nurse, and Bobby Mickens, Interim Director of Nursing and Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner, encourage you to get a flu shot. Call for an appointment or ask your provider during your next visit.

Welcome to October! It’s the time for cooler mornings, sunlight angling through the trees, even a bit of fog in the early hours.

It’s also time to get ready for flu season.

Experts say October is the best time to get your annual flu shot because you want to be vaccinated before the virus is circulating widely.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend getting a flu shot between October and the end of the year.

At Swope Health Services, we’re ready!

“Getting a vaccine means you’ll have a better chance of avoiding the flu, missing work or school, and spreading the illness to others around you,” said Bobby Mickens, Interim Director of Nursing at SHS.

“I’m encouraging everyone to get a flu shot,” she said. “It’s a good prevention measure for everyone. And the more people who get the shot, the more protection we have to avoid spreading illness to the people who are more vulnerable to flu complications.”

Most health insurance programs cover flu vaccinations.

So what are you waiting for? Call 816-923-5800 to schedule an appointment or visit any of the SHS locations for a walk-in appointment.

Myths about the Flu Vaccine

Sheila Shipley, Infection Control Nurse, spends a lot of time debunking myths about the flu and the flu vaccine. Here are the most common ones:

  1. The flu shot will make me sick.

The vaccination is not made with a live virus so it can’t make you sick. It takes the vaccine about two weeks to become effective and provide protection, so it is possible you can be exposed to the flu and get sick during that period. That’s why it’s important to be vaccinated before the flu is widespread in the community.

Also, after the shot, some people may have soreness in their arm, a low-grade fever or achy feeling.  That’s normal, and to address it, she recommends exercising the sore arm and taking either Tylenol or Motrin for the fever and aches.

  1. I’m allergic to eggs so I can’t get a shot.

The vaccine is safe even for people with egg allergies. Most people with egg allergies are still able to eat foods made with eggs, and so would not have an allergic reaction to the vaccine. People with serious allergic reactions to eggs are monitored after receiving the flu shot.

  1. I’m healthy and the flu is nothing more than a bad cold. I don’t need a shot.

Healthy people can get the flu. If you haven’t had it before, consider yourself lucky! But even if the flu affects you with only mild symptoms, you should remember that you are still carrying the virus and potentially spreading it to others who may be more vulnerable.

“In patients whose health is compromised, the flu can be truly life threatening,” she said. “They can be susceptible to pneumonia and other complications leading to death. Every year, thousands of people die from the flu.”

New Specialty Clinic Opens! Cardiology and GI Specialists Now at SHS

Swope Health Services has opened a new Specialty Clinic to provide patients with easier access to specialists in diseases of the heart and digestive system.

The Specialty Clinic at SHS Central launched in mid-June with service on Wednesdays each week for cardiology and gastrointestinal (GI) referral patients. SHS providers refer patients to the clinic for diagnosis and care of their special needs.

According to SHS records, in 2016, 700 patients with heart disease received care at an SHS clinic and more than 1,400 patients were referred to a GI specialist. Providing the specialist services directly at the SHS Central facility will remove barriers and make it easier for patients to get the care they need, said Dr. Kenneth Thomas, SHS Chief Medical Officer and a pediatrician.

“Many of our patients lack options for specialty care,” said Dr. Thomas. “The new clinic gives us a way to help these patients by making it easier and more convenient to access specialists. Our hope is that this new service improves their overall health and quality of life.”

SHS provides all registration support, clinical support staff, exam rooms, supplies and equipment for the specialists. For patients, there is no change to the normal process for registering, scheduling and qualifying for co-payments through insurance, Medicaid or Medicare or sliding fee discounts.

The specialists in heart and digestive system health come to SHS through a partnership with University Physicians Associates and Truman Medical Center (TMC).

In addition to the specialists, TMC will also offer financial counseling services at SHS for patients who are referred to TMC for any reason. The counselors will help patients determine if they are eligible for medical coverage assistance programs and provide assistance with registration at TMC.  The goal is to make those referrals easier for SHS patients, speeding access to TMC hospital care.

The SHS Specialty Clinic is located in newly renovated space on the first floor of SHS Central, just to the right of the main lobby. The clinic is equipped with three exam rooms, a lobby and reception area and a provider office.

Join us at 4 p.m., Wednesday, July 26 for our grand opening celebration in the lobby at SHS Central. We’ll have refreshments and an opportunity to tour the clinic and meet representatives from Truman Medical Center and SHS.


SHS Peer Group Supports Chronic Disease Self-Management


From left, Dr. Patty Rebeck with peer counselors Stephanie Greer and Tyrone Ferguson at a recent counseling meeting.

Sometimes, we all need a little help from a friend.

With that idea in mind, SHS Health Care Home for Primary Care has launched a Peer Advisory Group to provide support for patients learning to manage a chronic disease.

The group meets 1:30 to 3 p.m. every Thursday in the Building C office of Dr. Patricia Rebeck, licensed clinical psychologist and Behavioral Health Consultant. The meetings are open to any adult patients enrolled in Health Care Home for Primary Care.

“We’re inviting patients to come in and talk with people who’ve been in their shoes,” Dr. Rebeck said. “Our peer advisers are willing to share what they’ve been through. Their testimonials have more impact than I could.”

The discussions might cover topics like taking medications regularly, changing to a healthier diet or developing – and sticking with – an exercise plan. The program is designed to support patients dealing with diabetes, obesity, asthma and other chronic conditions or diseases.

“If you see that others can do it, you are more likely to believe that you can, too,” Dr. Rebeck said.

Peer counseling is not a new idea. It is well established that we rely upon recommendations and advice from peers, believing that we see a reflection of ourselves in others like us, Dr. Rebeck said. Brittney Hazley and Joan Uta of Health Care Home-Primary Care also support the peer counseling programs as part of the array of services available.

The program launched last fall, just after a similar program for ex-prison inmates achieved a milestone of success.

In that program, former inmates gather to provide support to others who are re-entering society. The group named itself “Focus and Refocus,” which is a kind of code for how participants can control their thinking and support each other to maintain a positive perspective.

The group developed a website and a brochure, part of a larger mission to share their voices with the community. One member of the group, Tyrone Ferguson, delivered a presentation titled “How We Want You to Help Us,” to 215 attendees at the Missouri Corrections Association/Missouri Probation & Parole Officers Association conference in September at the Lake of the Ozarks.

“This is a testament to self-efficacy,” said Dr. Rebeck. “There’s power in believing in yourself and in seeing others believe in you.”

Dr. Rebeck noted that the peer advisory discussions are informal and down-to-earth. One patient was discouraged by obesity, which made her feel ugly and unwilling to be seen in public. But in one meeting, she learned that others in the group found her interesting, and that gave her “a burst of willingness” to try to live, Dr. Reback said.

“Our members each care about helping others,” she said.  “It helps you take care of yourself when you know you have value. We all need a reason to get up in the morning.”

Learn more about the Focus and ReFocus support group at its website. Or contact SHS at (816) 922-1070).

Focus graphic


The Top 10 Early Warning Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

NPF-4CThe Heartland chapter of the National Parkinson Foundation wants to help you find answers about Parkinson’s disease.

What is Parkinson’s disease?
It is a disorder that slowly causes degeneration in the brain, resulting in symptoms including tremors, slowness of movement, trouble with balance, stiffness, mood changes and sleep disorders.  Over time, a person with Parkinson’s can lose the ability to control their movements, body and emotions.

The disease continues its development over years, and while there is no cure, medication and therapy are used to treat its symptoms.

Parkinson's logoThere are more than 10 million people worldwide living with Parkinson’s. More than 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s each year, but experts believe thousands of cases go undetected.  Treatment can lessen the impact of the disease.

That’s why it is important to know the early warning symptoms of Parkinson’s:

  1. Tremor or shaking, usually in the hand, finger, chin or lip. It could include twitching in legs or arms.
  2. Small handwriting, or changes in the way you write, usually crowding letters and words together or shrinking the size of your writing.
  3. Loss of smell. It may start with missing specific scents, like pickles, bananas and licorice.
  4. Trouble sleeping, often with thrashing, kicking or punching while asleep.
  5. PD-Info-403Stiffness in arms and legs, making it harder to walk and move.
  6. Constipation and straining to have a bowel movement.
  7. A soft or low voice. You might think others are having trouble hearing, but your voice might be changing to a hoarse or quieter level.
  8. A masked face. This is often referred to as having a serious or depressed look, or a blank stare.
  9. Dizziness or fainting. Feeling dizzy upon standing can be tied to low blood pressure, which is linked to Parkinson’s.
  10. Stooping or hunching over, or leaning or slouching rather than standing straight.

If you recognize any of these symptoms, talk with your doctor. People with Parkinson’s who receive expert care have better outcomes with fewer complications. Parkinson’s affects all aspects of life and can impact your family and caregivers, too.


IMG_3925The Heartland Chapter of the Parkinson Foundation, a non-profit organization, is hosting a symposium called “Caring for the Caregiver,” from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 22, at the Johnson County Community College. The fee is $15 for general admission, and continuing education credits are available for an additional fee. Contact the Heartland Chapter (913-341-8828) to make a reservation or learn more.

James Parkinson: The Doctor Who Discovered the Disease

In 1817, an English physician named Dr. James Parkinson wrote an article called “An Essay on the Shaking Palsy,” which described the six cases he had observed in his own practice in London. He encouraged others to study the disease as a medical condition and to share information to help in its diagnosis and treatment.

Dr. Parkinson was not the first to note the disease. In medical history, there are descriptions of the condition in the Bible, in ancient Egyptian papyrus documents and in 10th century BC Indian medical texts. The famous physician Galen wrote about tremors, lack of movement and other symptoms in AD 175.

But Dr. Parkinson was the first to document it so carefully, describing the characteristic resting tremor, abnormal gait and posture, and diminishing muscle strength and control. Around 60 years after he published his essay, other doctors recognized the importance of his work and named the disease after him. Naming the disease helped differentiate it from other conditions involving tremors or similar symptoms.

Since then, research focused on understanding the symptoms of the disease and learning how it progresses. The Parkinson’s Foundation was formed in 1957 to assist people with the disease and to encourage additional research.  Those efforts continue today with research in the United States and around the world.

Sources:, Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, Wikipedia History of Parkinson’s disease

Seven Tips to Take Care of Your Kidneys!

Kidney Month

Most of us have two kidneys, each about the size of a fist, located on either side of the spine at the lowest level of the rib cage.

Kidney ImageThe kidneys are powerful chemical factories that:

  • Remove waste products from the body
  • Remove drugs from the body
  • Balance the body’s fluids
  • Release hormones that regulate blood pressure
  • Produce an active form of vitamin D that promotes strong, healthy bones
  • Control the production of red blood cells

Each kidney has a million tiny filters called “nephrons.” The nephrons filter and return to the bloodstream about 200 quarts of fluid every 24 hours. About two quarts are removed from the body in the form of urine, and about 198 quarts are recycled.

If your kidneys don’t work, waste builds up in your blood and makes you sick, resulting in either Acute Renal Failure (ARF) or Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD).

Risk factors for kidney disease include:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Being 60 years or older
  • Having a family member with kidney disease, diabetes or high blood pressure
  • Being African American/Black, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, American Indian or Alaska Native

People with risk factors should get tested regularly. Tests to find kidney disease include:

  • A simple urine test called ACR (albumin-to-creatinine ratio). Protein in the urine is a sign of kidney disease.
  • A simple blood test to estimate your GFR (glomerular filtration rate), which measures how well your kidneys are working.

Our Chronic Disease Educator Rosemary Griffith offers seven tips for keeping your kidneys healthy: 

  1. Hydrate.  It’s always a good idea to drink four to six glasses of water every day.
  2. Eat healthy foods. Your kidneys can tolerate a wide range of dietary habits.  Most kidney problems arise from other medical conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes. Because of this, you should follow healthy, moderate eating habits to control weight and blood pressure. Preventing diabetes and high blood pressure will help keep your kidneys in good condition.
  3. Exercise regularly. Regular physical activity can stave off weight gain and high blood pressure.
  4. Supplements

    Supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

    Use caution with supplements and herbal remedies. Excessive amounts of certain vitamin supplements and some herbal extracts may be harmful to your kidneys. Talk to your doctor about any vitamins and herbs you are taking or plan to take.

  5. Quit smoking. Smoking can damage blood vessels, which decreases the flow of blood in the kidneys. When the kidneys don’t have adequate blood flow, they can’t function at optimal levels. Smoking also increases the risk of high blood pressure as well as the risk of kidney cancer.
  6. Don’t overdo over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Common non-prescription pills like ibuprofen and aspirin can cause kidney damage if taken too regularly over a prolonged period.
  7. If you’re at risk, get regular kidney function screening. If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, talk to your physician about a screen for kidney dysfunction as part of routine care.

Do you have risk factors for kidney disease? Come in for a check-up. Call 816-923-5800 for an appointment.

Fear of Diabetes Drives This Patient to Get Healthy

Russ Sovern

Russ (center) weighs nearly 400 pounds at his heaviest.

Russ Sovern is the first to admit he was in denial about his diabetes for a long time.

“I weighed close to 400 pounds, I mostly ate fast food and I never exercised,” said Russ. “Yes, I was afraid to hear what a doctor would say.”

Russ had been in a car accident about twenty years ago that had left him with painful back issues. He has been on disability ever since but remained medically uninsured.

“I should have tried harder to come back from the accident, but instead I let the health issues build up,” said Russ. The weight gain exacerbated his back injuries and strained his knees. He grew increasingly lethargic, needed a walker to get around and found himself easily out of breath.

But the one thing he was truly afraid of was diabetes. “A family member lost both of her legs to diabetes and I didn’t want that to happen to me,” said Russ.

In 2014, his brother, Gene, told Russ he was recently diagnosed with diabetes.

“He had one of those diabetes test kits with him, so I took the test,” said Russ. “My blood sugar was way high. There was no hiding from it anymore.”

Gene, who is also uninsured, told Russ he found a good clinic called Swope Health West and he really liked the provider, Mandy Lueck.  So, Russ made an appointment with Mandy in May 2014.

“He had very high blood sugar levels and I had to put him on several medications,” said Mandy, Nurse Practitioner. “I also encouraged him to change his diet and to start exercising. Just walking would make a positive difference.”


Now at 273 pounds, Russ feels much healthier as he poses with his wife, Nancy (left) and Mandy Lueck at Swope Health Independence.

Russ took Mandy’s advice to heart and started making some lifestyle changes. “I hadn’t been in a grocery store for years,” said Russ. “I was on a steady diet of McDonalds, pizza and other fast food.”

Now, Russ is on the high-fiber, low-carb Mediterranean diet and walks daily. “My walker pretty much stays in the corner now,” said Russ. “I don’t run out of breath anymore. I don’t have to sit down half-way through my destination anymore. I can make it to wherever I’m going.”

At his last weigh-in with Mandy in January 2017, Russ had shed 98 pounds.

“Mandy has helped me so much,” said Russ. “And, even though Mandy has moved to the Independence clinic, I’m still coming to see her. In fact, she sees a lot of my family!”

“It’s true,” said Mandy, “I see ALL of the Soverns now!”

Have you been putting off your healthcare? Why not visit with a provider at Swope Health Services for a checkup and tips for healthier living? Call for an appointment – 816-923-5800.

New SHS Specialty Clinic Coming This Spring!

Tyesha and Siera

Tyesha Smith, M.A., left, and Siera Williamson, M.A., in the reception area at the new SHS Specialty Clinic.

Swope Health Services will open a new Specialty Clinic this spring to provide patients with easier access to specialists in diseases of the heart and digestive system.

The Specialty Clinic is at SHS Central. SHS providers will refer patients to the clinic for diagnosis and care of their special needs. The clinic will be staffed with specialists under contract with SHS.

“This is a way for us to remove barriers for our patients,” said Dr. Kenneth Thomas, SHS Chief Medical Officer and a pediatrician. “Our patients need these services but many face socio-economic or psychological barriers. We’re working to eliminate barriers.”

Dr. Thomas noted many patients lack options for specialty care. The new clinic gives SHS a way to help these patients with easier access to specialists, with a goal of improving health outcomes.

The Specialty Clinic is located in newly renovated space on the first floor of SHS Central, just to the right of the main lobby. The clinic is equipped with three exam rooms, a lobby and reception area and a provider office.

Dr. Thomas envisions the clinic as the first step in expanding SHS’s scope of care. He noted the clinic could ultimately house echocardiogram and other medical devices for specialty testing and diagnoses. In the future, the clinic may also provide space for special events or targeted patient outreach such as HIV testing, immunizations or back-to-school checkups.

If you have chronic heart disease or digestive issues, this is a good time to come in for a check-up and possible referral to the specialists. Call 816-923-5800 to schedule an appointment.