Frequently Asked Questions

1. What exactly is a Community Health Center?

Community Health Centers (CHCs) are local, non-profit, community-owned health care centers that have been operating in communities across the nation since the 1960s. This national network of health centers provides high-quality affordable primary care. Also known as Federally Qualified Health Centers, they are located in areas where care is needed but scarce.

2. I have health insurance. Why would I want to go to a Community Health Center?

Northwest Community Health Center (NWCHC) is your healthcare home. We offer health care to everyone living in Lincoln County, Montana. By supporting NWCHC, you’ll receive high quality health care at great savings. We offer comprehensive medical care for the whole family, dental care, and pharmacy services.

3. How do I know if my salary is too high to qualify for your medical and dental assistance?

There are no income restrictions to receiving care. Depending on your family income and family size, you may qualify for discounts on our sliding fee scale.

4. Developing a relationship with my health care providers is important to me. Can I choose which doctor I see at the Northwest Community Health Center (NWCHC)?

Yes! We encourage you to be a full participant in your own health care. We have three physicians and two certified physician assistants on staff from which you can choose.

5. How long does it take to get an appointment with a doctor?

The current waiting time to see a NWCHC provider is about five days. We also have a number of Same Day Appointments available for patients who are acutely ill.

6. Someone told me you can get Same Day screening for Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Is that true?

Yes. We offer walk-in screening and counseling for Sexually Transmitted Diseases. No appointment is necessary.

7. My husband has a chronic medical condition that requires monitoring by a physician. Is this beyond the scope of care provided at NWCHC?

No. NWCHC provides care to many patients with diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses. In fact, out Community Health Center is a participant in the National Diabetes Collaborative, which provides our practitioners with the best and latest information in diabetes management. It has strengthened our ability to provide chronic disease management for a wide array of illnesses.

8. What if I need specialty care?

NWCHC has a strong relationship with specialists in private practice and will refer you to specialists as necessary.

9. My medications are expensive. Can your pharmacy provide any savings?

As a NWCHC patient, you qualify for certain medicines at costs reduced 25% to 50% depending on the medication. Our clinic also has a number of medication assistance programs that can provide other discounts.

10. I have a health care provider, but aunt is on Medicare and having a hard time affording her health care costs. Can Northwest Community Health Center help her?

Yes! As a Federally Qualified Community Health Center, we can provide assistance to Medicare beneficiaries.

11. My child is starting daycare. Can your health clinic provide a physical exam and appropriate immunizations?

Yes! NWCHC provides physical exams and immunizations to people of all ages. We’re also a provider of the Vaccines for the Children Program, which provides childhood immunizations at no cost to children who do not have health insurance coverage. NWCHC also offers seasonal flu shots to children and adults.


12. Why are family planning services important?

Family planning agencies, such as the Northwest Community Health Center (NWCHC), often serve as the entry point for people seeking health care and are the only source of health care for millions of low-income individuals in the United States. Without family planning agencies, many women would not have access to yearly physicals, screening for cancer and sexually transmitted diseases, or other services. Planning agencies do not provide abortion services. In addition, family planning programs encourage teens to involve their families in their decision to seek family planning services. They also provide counseling to teens on how to avoid coercive attempts to get them to have sex.


13. Can a teenager get birth control without a parent's permission?

Yes, teenagers can get birth control without their parents’ permission. Birth control and other reproductive health services at federally funded Title X family planning clinics in the United States are strictly confidential, which means that clinic staff cannot share any patient’s information with anyone unless they give the clinic staff permission. There are many federally funded family planning clinics where teenagers, 17 and under, can get free services. These services include birth control methods (prevent pregnancy), pregnancy testing, Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) testing, and gynecological exams. Even though federally funded family planning clinics offer confidential services to teenagers, it’s always a good idea for teens to talk with their parents or another trusted adult to help them carefully consider their decision about becoming sexually active and the need to use birth control in preventing pregnancy and STDs.

14. How long does it take for the pill or Depo-Provera to work?

The pill is effective two weeks after you start using it. It basically shuts off your ovaries. As long as you remember to take it at the same time each day you will be protected from pregnancy. The Depo-Provera shot is effective about 24 hours after it is given (within the first five days of your menses), even if it is the first time getting the shot.

15. If I become pregnant while on a birth control method, such as the pill, patch, vaginal ring or Depo-Provera, will it harm my baby?

The pill, patch and vaginal ring will not harm the baby. Of course, the method should be discontinued as soon as pregnancy is confirmed. Health care providers will give you a pregnancy test before your Depo-Provera shot to confirm that you are not pregnant. If you think you are pregnant and take Depo-Provera, it is important to see your clinician for a pregnancy test as soon as possible. If an unexpected pregnancy occurs one to two months after a Depo-Provera injection, the baby is more likely to have a low birth weight or other health problems; birth defects are possible if you use the drug during the first three months of pregnancy. Children born to women who were taking Depo-Provera show no signs of poor health or development.

16. Is it true that you can use the pill to skip your period?

Yes, it is possible to skip the last week of a birth control pill pack (period week) and begin a new pack of pills to prevent your period. Some women decide to skip their period if it is expected to occur during a vacation, wedding, honeymoon, or other important occasion. Women should discuss this with their health care providers in order to understand what this might mean for their body. Birth control pills are normally taken with 21 active hormonal pills followed by seven placebo or iron pills. While on birth control pills, there is no biological need for a menstrual period, however many women prefer to get their menstrual cycle on a monthly basis. A monthly period eases any worries about being pregnant.

17. Do antibiotics affect the pill?

Certain antibiotics can stop the pill from working properly. This can increase your chance of getting pregnant. Use a back up method, like condoms (male or female), or do not have vaginal sex, while taking the antibiotic and a week after finishing the antibiotics. Remember, if you are given a prescription for an antibiotic; it is very important to tell the clinician that you are on the pill. If you are worried about getting pregnant, you may want to consider using Emergency Contraception (EC).

18. I am a male considering having a vasectomy, what are the effects on the body and how much does it cost?

A vasectomy is a permanent method of male birth control. It is 99% effective. Sterilization does not provide any protection from sexually transmitted diseases. Male sterilization is much less complicated than female sterilization because it is a non-surgical procedure that does not require a hospital visit. With the no-scalpel vasectomy, the skin of the scrotum (testicles) is not cut. The tubes are reached through one tiny hole, then tied off, cauterized, or blocked. The tiny hole heals quickly, no stitches, no scarring. Vasectomies have no effect on sexuality. Erections, climaxes, and the amount of ejaculate remain the same.

19. I am a female interested in the effects of sterilization. Can you tell me the costs, and how effective this is?

Female sterilization is a surgical birth control method. It is 99% effective. Sterilization involves cutting, clipping or cauterizing (burning) the fallopian tubes, which are attached to the uterus. Sterilization does not provide any protection from sexually transmitted diseases. Some providers have funding available to assist low-income women who wish to be sterilized. Sterilization does not stop a woman’s menstrual cycle, so periods should be expected. The Essure procedure is a non-incision surgical procedure that involves placing a small, flexible device, also known as a micro-insert, into each fallopian tube. Scar tissue then grows into the micro-inserts, blocking the fallopian tubes and preventing sperm from reaching and fertilizing the egg. Female sterilization may increase the risk of having an ectopic (not in uterus) pregnancy. A pregnancy occurring outside of the uterus cannot continue for very long before it becomes a health risk to the woman. An ectopic pregnancy is a life threatening condition. You need to call your doctor or clinic if your have any of the following symptoms: abnormal vaginal bleeding, pain in your lower belly, especially on one side, and/or neck, shoulder, or upper back pain.


20. I had sex last night (in any of the following situations) and I am afraid I might get pregnant by accident. What can I do now?
  • The condom broke
  • Condom slipped off
  • I was forced to have sex without birth control
  • I missed my Depo shot
  • I forgot my pill(s)
  • The diaphragm was dislodged
  • I forgot to put on my patch or it fell off.

If you had unprotected sex in the last 72 hours or three days and want to avoid an unplanned pregnancy, you may want Emergency Contraception or EC. EC used to be called “the morning after pill”. It is now called EC because it can be used up to three days after unprotected sex, although it is most effective if taken within 12 hours after unprotected sex. It is a series of specific types of birth control pills that if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex can prevent an unplanned pregnancy by up to 75%. EC does not interrupt an established pregnancy

If it has been 24 hours or less since the Patch fell off, put the same patch or a new one back on. If it has been more than 24 hours since the Patch fell off, start a new cycle by putting a new patch on right away. Whatever day it is will be your new “patch change day.” You will need to use a backup method of birth control, like a condom, for 1 week.

21. Is it possible to get pregnant during my period?

Yes, it is possible to become pregnant while on your period. The chances of getting pregnant during your period are low but not impossible. If you have sexual intercourse during the end of your period the chances are higher because sperm can live in the female reproductive tract for up to one week.

22. How long after sex must I wait to take a pregnancy test so that I get accurate results?

Every woman is different as to when a pregnancy test will come up positive. It is best to wait until you have missed a period by 10 to 14 days or two weeks to give your body time to build up the hormone HCG, which is only present when you are pregnant. A very early test (during the week your period is due) might not pick up a pregnancy because the level of HCG might not yet be detectable.

23. Is it possible to get pregnant without having sex?

Can sperm live outside the male body? The life expectancy of sperm is short if exposed to air because air kills sperm. Once sperm has entered a woman’s body, it can live up to one week. Sperm can be deposited on the skin surfaces near a woman’s vagina and can enter the vagina with the help of a woman’s bodily fluids. Becoming pregnant this way is not common, however, women have gotten pregnant without having the penis penetrate or inserted in their vagina. If there is a chance there is sperm on your hands, make sure to wash with soap and water before coming into any contact with the vagina.