Mountain Family Health Centers takes over Avon Elementary’s school-based clinic |

Mountain Family Health Centers takes over Avon Elementary’s school-based clinic

Dental Hygienist Cathy Lettice examines the teeth of Norman Almanza, 3, at the new clinic at Avon Elementary School on Wednesday, Aug. 17, in Avon. The clinic has a dental room and medical needs within it.
Chris Dillmann | |

Mountain Family Health Centers

Five locations

• Avon Elementary School

• Shaw Regional Cancer Center, Edwards (in the former Eagle Care Clinic located in the basement)

• Rifle

• Glenwood Springs

• Basalt

Services offered

• Well child checks (0 to 18 years of age)

• Immunizations, including flu

• Acute visits, including cold, cough, earaches, stomach, etc.

• Allergies and asthma

• Reproductive wellness

• Behavioral health

• Dental services (0 to 21 years of age)

It’s easier to remain healthy at Avon Elementary School than most places in our spiral arm of the universe.

The school-based health clinic that opened two years ago will now be operated by Mountain Family Health Centers. It will continue to provide medical, behavioral and dental health care for the medically underserved, regardless of ability to pay, said Ross Brooks, Mountain Family Health Centers CEO.

“This partnership will help to ensure healthier kids and families for decades to come,” Brooks said.

What a Guy

Dr. Guy and Jill Kovacevich originally opened the clinic on Valentine’s Day 2014, as the nonprofit arm of Doctors on Call, their medical office in Avon. It took four years to get to opening day, with Jill and Holly Woods writing grants and pulling support from anywhere they could find it. The planning cost $24,000. Construction cost $221,000.

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When the call went out in 2009 for school administrators to attend a meeting if they were interested in having a clinic in their school, former Avon Elementary Principal Melisa Rewold-Thuon was the only one to show up.

Four years later, they cut the ribbon and opened the clinic in a space that used to be a couple of counselors’ offices and a conference room. In fact, the morning it opened, the clinic was so new that the window facing the inside hall still said “Conference Room.”

Their wheelhouse

The Avon Elementary clinic is right in Mountain Family Health Centers’ wheelhouse, Brooks said.

“We tend to serve the market for low income, Medicaid or uninsured individuals,” Brooks said.

A little research found that around two-thirds of Avon Elementary students lacked a regular source of health care. More than 200 of Avon’s students qualify as low income, and more than 80 percent are not native English speakers.

Across Eagle County Schools, 33 percent are English language learners and 42 percent participate in the free- or reduced-lunch program, which helps lower-income families with access to nutritious meals.

Avon Elementary’s school-based clinic is one of about 60 in Colorado.

State Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, is a product of Eagle County Schools.

“These school-based health care clinics are incredible for the entire community. It has been incredible to watch Avon Elementary improve step by step. This is another feather in its cap,” she told a group of parents during the recent grand-opening event.

Low income health care

Mountain Family Health Centers started in the 1970s in Blackhawk when a group of Blackhawk residents wanted local health care they could afford. So they started their own health care center.

It grew into the Western Slope, and Mountain Family Health Centers now serve more than 17,700 residents in Rifle, Glenwood Springs, Basalt, Edwards in the former Eagle Care Clinic, located in the basement of the Shaw Regional Cancer Center, and the new location in Avon Elementary School.

Mountain Family Health Centers handles 48.6 percent of our region’s low-income families whose income ranges between 0 percent and 200 percent of the federal poverty level, Brooks said. About half of the patients are Medicaid clients. A few have their own insurance. Federal grants cover some of the cost of treating the uninsured.

If you’re uninsured, bring your paystub and they’ll work with you to figure out with you how much you can afford to pay. Sometimes it’s as little at $7 for their primary care. If you can afford more, you’ll pay more.

In real terms, the majority of Mountain Family Health Centers’ patients live on less than $24,000 per year for a single individual or on less than $49,000 per year for a family of four, Ross said.

Annually, the organization has a $17 million operating budget and employs 160 people.

Ross said they save an additional $18.1 million in health care cost savings by reducing unnecessary hospital and emergency room visits.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and

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