Steamboat Springs In an era when 75 million Americans are without health insurance according to Census data, public health programs can bridge the gap between doctors and the poor.
The Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association was created in 1964 to provide affordable health care to residents of the Yampa Valley.
Services range from prenatal care to home health care for the elderly.
All medical care is given on a sliding scale, according to the patient's ability to pay. For example, immunizations for children could be free or could cost up to $15 per shot, said Stephanie Anderson, director of administration for VNA.
"No one will be turned away for inability to pay," Anderson said.
VNA provides a variety of women's health services including pap smears, testing for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, birth control and pregnancy tests.
VNA administers the Women, Infants and Children Nutrition Program and the school health program, sending nurses into schools in the Steamboat Springs School District.
"Our goal is the promotion of healthy children within stable and nurturing families," VNA's service pamphlet said.
The agency is also concerned with adult health into old age.
Each November, VNA launches a massive campaign for flu shots. The clinic, located in Suite 101 of the Yampa Valley Medical Center, provides not only flu shots, but also travel and other adult immunizations.
For seniors, VNA sends nurses to four sites around Routt County for Senior Wellness Clinics. A nurse is available to take blood pressure and give advice.
For seniors who cannot leave their home, VNA also offers home health care. Nurses will come to an individual's home under doctor's orders. Home health care specialists help patients recover from surgery and chronic illness, and offer physical, occupational and speech therapy, Anderson said.
Treatment is individualized and can be paid for with insurance, Medicare and Medicaid.
Respite care, including light housekeeping, is also provided without a doctor's order on a private pay basis.
VNA is also the home of Hospice for Routt County.
Hospice caregivers care for the terminally ill in their homes, enabling them to approach the end of life with dignity and comfort. Caregivers are trained to help patients live without fear of losing control or dying alone.
Care can include regular or emergency nurse visits, assistance with household maintenance and bereavement counseling for the family.
There are many volunteer opportunities at VNA including Hospice, general office work at the clinic and help with the flu shot campaign.
All services can be provided with a Spanish translator.
To volunteer or for more information, call 879-1632. (In Craig, call 824-8233.)