Vail Valley Medical Center and Mountain Family Health Center partner to provide medical care
EAGLE COUNTY — At age 10, Karyn ReNae Anderson’s son suffered a serious head injury. Within four years, his participation in karate, soccer, football and basketball resulted in a total of six concussions. The injuries forced him to quit sports; simply watching television or listening to music overloaded his brain and nervous system. The head trauma symptoms, including vision and reading problems, combined with ADHD, prevented him from taking his final exams.
Anderson didn’t have insurance when she moved to Vail, so she turned to Mountain Family Health Center. Mountain Family Health Center provides integrated primary medical, behavioral health and dental care for the underserved population. For Anderson’s family, and other underserved patients, the medical team has gone well beyond its call of duty.
Anderson’s son’s teachers didn’t understand his condition, so Mountain Family Health Center’s nurse practitioner Diane Purse visited the school and explained his limitations. They also sent him to Rocky Mountain Concussion Center in Golden for further testing and treatment that they couldn’t provide.
“They really want to get to the problem, not just give you a pill or a Band-Aid,” Anderson says. “They treat you just like a family member; they care.”
A community asset
In partnership with Vail Valley Medical Center, Mountain Family Health Center opened a site in Edwards in February 2014 to serve the medical and behavioral health needs of 3,000 Eagle County residents per year.
“The partnership between Mountain Family and Vail Valley Medical Center has been invaluable in helping many local families,” said Vail Valley Medical Center’s President and CEO Doris Kirchner. “Our support of Mountain Family is one way Vail Valley Medical Center is addressing population health in Eagle County and giving back to our community.”
MFHC exists under the umbrella of a federally qualified health center, or Community Health Center, which provides healthcare to about 17,000 people in Eagle, Garfield, Pitkin and Rio Blanco counties. Mountain Family Health Center’s funding stems from local, state and federal funds, grants, and, in Eagle County, partners like VVMC.
Vail Valley Medical Center provides subsidies to Mountain Family Health that cover the cost of their clinic space in Edwards and expenses not covered by government aid and grants.
Mountain Family operates on a sliding scale basis and serves all patients, regardless of their ability to pay.
“It’s not a free clinic,” according to Mountain Family Health Center Development Director Garry Schalla. “We want people’s skin in the game, because that’s how they’re going to participate in their wellness. Putting patients at the center of their health allows them to engage more fully.”
Medicaid covers approximately half of the patients at the Edwards site; 32 percent are uninsured; and Medicare, the Child Health Plan Plus or commercial health insurance cover the remainder.
Mountain Family serves 48.6 percent of the region’s low-income families, the majority of whom live on less than $24,000 for an individual or less than $49,000 for a family of four. It also impacts the local economy by $15.7 million through jobs and tax revenues. It saves $18.1 million in healthcare costs by reducing unnecessary hospital visits.
“The healthcare teams at Mountain Family Health Center Edwards provide high-quality healthcare services at an affordable price for the community,” said Ross Brooks, Mountain Family Health Center’s CEO, adding that MFHC Edwards exceeds the national averages for patient diabetic control, hypertension control, depression screening, childhood immunizations, early prenatal care and patient engagement. “I believe we have some of the most compassionate, high-quality staff in the state of Colorado.”
Since 2012, Mountain Family Health Center has worked with Mind Springs Health to deliver integrated, on-site behavioral health services. Mountain Family Health Center employs a team of professionals who offer family therapy, individual counseling, depression screening and intervention and referrals.
Last summer, Mountain Family Health Center opened its first school-based health center, Mountain Family Health Center Avon. It provides medical, behavioral and dental care to students in Eagle County Schools. In 2018, they plan to open a new, full medical, behavioral health and dental clinic in Edwards to serve a larger percentage of the 35,000 low-income residents in the region.
“We want to treat the person on a long-term basis,” Schalla said. “We look at the total integrated care package for each individual we serve.”
In addition to Vail Valley Medical Center’s subsidization of a significant portion of Mountain Family Health Center’s clinic in Edwards, the partnership assists patients who walk into VVMC’s emergency room and need follow-up care. VVMC also provides lab tests Mountain Family Health Center is unable to perform. Together, the two entities provide a valuable, and much needed, community asset.
“As the community hospital, Vail Valley Medical Center is proud to reinvest our revenues into important services and programs that benefit Eagle County residents,” said Kirchner. “Our partnership with Mountain Family ensures healthcare is available and affordable for locals in need.”