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Eage Co. clinic in doubt

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado

The update: Eagle County and Vail Valley Medical Center have been working together toward building a public health center for the area, but it looks like there might be some major roadblocks to making that happen, County Manager Bruce Baumgartner said.

The center would serve the uninsured and underinsured population in the county.

The county and hospital are trying to get federal recognition for the project ” if the county is recognized as a low-income or medically underserved area, it can qualify for money to build the center, grants to hire doctors, and get a much better return on Medicare and Medicaid cases.



The area isn’t medically underserved ” the county has plenty of doctors, said Public Health Manager Jill Hunsaker. The problem is that many do not accept Medicare and Medicaid, and almost 20 percent of the population does not have insurance.

Eagle County is trying to use those numbers to qualify for the status. The hospital has hired a consultant to study the county and help make the case to the federal government.



But getting the federal designation is a two-step process ” first the county needs a waiver to be considered a needy area, then it needs to qualify for the federal designation.

“Getting the waiver doesn’t mean you’ll get the designation,” Baumgartner said. ” And getting the waiver might be the easier of the two.”

Initial reports from the consultants were a bit disappointing, he said.



“Reading it myself, I wasn’t even convinced (that we should qualify),” he said.

What that means: The county and hospital will keep working to make a case for the county. If the health center is built, it would include mental, public health and sick care clinics all under one roof.

Hunsaker said it would help meet 80 percent of the area’s uninsured medical need.

Who they talked to: Eagle River Watershed Council representatives and engineers from Walsh Environmental

What they talked about: The watershed council, a nonprofit river advocacy group, plans to restore sections of the Eagle River in Edwards. The stretch is inhospitable to fish and some of the banks have been weakened by overuse, agriculture, ranching and development, said Julie Ash, a water resource engineer with Walsh Environmental, the company helping with the restoration.

The county commissioners have given grants to the Watershed Council and the restoration project for several years.

Ash laid out the $1.5 million restoration plan to commissioners. The project will start with the section by Hillcrest Drive this summer and move up to the edge of the Eagle River Preserve.

About 145,000 plants and shrubs will be planted on the banks to create an overhanging canopy of vegetation. Woody debris and river rocks will be returned to some areas to encourage growth of a new ecosystem, and bars in the water will create shallow and deep portions necessary for fish to flourish.


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