In the next step toward bringing a community health center to Northwest Colorado, a steering committee is being formed.
In April, community members from Routt and Moffat counties met to discuss the possibility of creating a health center to serve the increasing number of uninsured or underinsured residents.
From that meeting, the community determined there was an interest in a health center, said Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association public information officer Suzi Mariano.
The next step is looking at data to determine where a health center best would be suited in Northwest Colorado or whether there should be a traveling clinic. VNA officials are hoping a steering committee will help with that task.
"We need to figure out if there really is a need, and if so, where is the need?" Mariano said. "Is it Craig, Moffat County, South Routt?"
The first steering committee meeting, which will be open to the public, is from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at Hayden Town Hall.
Community health centers are nonprofit public health clinics that are in high-need areas and serve patients, regardless of their ability to pay, through a sliding-fee scale. The health centers are governed by community boards and receive federal funding to help offset some costs of caring for uninsured patients.
VNA Executive Director Sue Birch encourages private physicians, mental health workers and hospital representatives to be part of the steering committee. She also said the VNA would appreciate input from the business community.
"We recognize a large portion of our seasonal work force needs affordable health services," she said.
Birch said the steering committee should be made up of 12 to 15 members with a deadline of making a decision by the end of the year.
The community has two chances to get federal grant funding for the process of creating a health center, one in August and another in December.
The steering committee also should study the successful model of the regional dental coalition, Birch said.
"We, as a region, would be remiss not to build on the success of the dental coalition," she said. "Many of these models (have) medical, dental and mental health."
The steering committee would be involved in data collection and looking at the criteria for health centers, Mariano said.
In 1999, a survey suggested that nearly 20 percent of residents in Routt and Moffat counties were uninsured or underinsured. What the VNA has seen and what physicians and hospitals are reporting suggest that the number has increased to between 25 percent and 30 percent.
-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229 or e-mail email@example.com