Steamboat Springs Routt County residents who travel to Craig to utilize the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association’s Community Health Center soon will gain access to the same discounted primary health services closer to home.
VNA officials learned last month that the organization secured an annual $650,000 grant from the federal Health Resource and Services Administration to open and operate the Routt County Community Health Center in Steamboat Springs.
Officials said that by the end of this year, the new center will start to serve patients who primarily are below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, a level that is comparable to a family of four earning less than $45,000 each year.
“It’s exciting and daunting all at once,” VNA CEO Lisa Brown said Tuesday about the new clinic that has been years in the making. “But it’s really great to be able to help people in the community with this new center.”
She said 15 percent of the 2,700 patients who use the Community Health Center in Craig are traveling from Routt County.
There also could be several patients in the county who forgo services because they cannot make the trip to Moffat, she said.
The grant, revenue from patients and other grants and donations will allow the VNA to add primary care, prevention and behavioral health services to the organization’s existing office on the Yampa Valley Medical Center campus.
Medical doctors and midlevel providers, such as physician’s assistants and nurse practitioners, will provide the care.
Brown said the new center ultimately will serve as another safety net for Northwest Colorado’s uninsured and underinsured population, a population the Colorado Health Institute estimates includes 24.5 percent of adults in Routt and Moffat counties.
“With a community health center, people are able to access care in a way that is more efficient than using the emergency room,” Brown said. “It allows them to start taking the best care of their health by regularly accessing health care services rather than waiting until they are very sick or in an emergency.”
The VNA estimates the new health center in Routt could serve about 2,000 patients after two years.
Brown said the center will start seeing patients by the end of this year and “ramp up” operations throughout the next couple of years.
She said the Community Health Center in Craig costs about $2.1 million per year to operate and said the cost of the center in Steamboat will be slightly less than that.
At the health care center, the VNA offers patients the opportunity to pay on a sliding scale. The lower a patient’s income, the less the patient pays for care.
“Last year, we provided $1.2 million in care through discounts on our sliding fee scale that people would not have been able to get otherwise,” Brown said.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com