Vail Daily column: Threat of cuts looms over care | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Threat of cuts looms over care

Ross Brooks
Valley Voices

For the past 49 years, Colorado's Community Health Centers Mountain Family Health Centers has provided a backbone of health services across our state.

With a commitment to prevention and quality, Colorado Community Health Centers are the health care home for one in eight Coloradans. But a projected 70 percent cut in federal grant funding, a loss of at least $50 million to Colorado Community Health Centers, threatens to undermine the gains made by health centers in past years. Unless lawmakers act, this cut will come in less than 14 months.

We urge Congress to make Community Health Center funding a priority in the next budget cycle and continue investing in the Community Health Center program and therefore in the health of our communities.

The Colorado Community Health Center movement began in the early 1960s when the first independent, community owned, public health clinics emerged in Colorado to care for their neighbors. All along the way, Community Health Centers have been locally run and fiscally responsible. Clinics like Mountain Family Health Center cost less and produce better results ("outcomes" in medical parlance) than do doctors in private practice.

Three years ago, Colorado's Community Health Centers received additional federal funding to expand. Community Health Centers expanded clinic sites and added providers for tens of thousands of people who would get health insurance. As Colorado's Medicaid enrollment has surged past 1 million, health centers like Mountain Family Health Center have become critical to providing services across our state. Many doctors in private practices are not able to accept new patients, much less patients on Medicaid, which pays less than private insurers. While the communities we serve are often considered resort areas, we still see plenty of uninsured people in need of quality care. We also stay open late to help busy working families, yet even with extra hours, our clinics are often full.

For instance, at Mountain Family Health Centers, our doors are open before 8 a.m. Mondays through Fridays at most of our clinic locations offering a range of services that are as diverse as the communities we serve. These services include primary care, dental, mental health and case management in Glenwood Springs, Basalt, Rifle and most recently Edwards. You can view our clinic locations, hours and more at http://www.mountainfamily.org/our-clinics.

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Federal grant funding makes up about 20 percent of Colorado Community Health Centers' revenue. But unless Congress acts, the majority of federal grant funding for Mountain Family Health Center — and all Colorado Community Health Centers — will halt in October 2015. That will limit Mountain Family Health Center's ability to see patients, reducing the number of people we serve, and potentially leading to staff cuts and facility closures.

Where will those patients go? How will they get health care?

Health insurance is only valuable if you can use it. Colorado Community Health Centers provide access to care for hundreds of thousands of Coloradans. We hope Congress will reauthorize critical funds to let us keep up the good work.

Ross Brooks is chief executive officer of Mountain Family Health Centers.

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