By Garry Schalla, Development Director
Mountain Family Health Centers will open a new integrated health center in Basalt in the fall of 2018. I was recently interviewed by Caitlin Causey of Roaring Fork Lifestyle magazine about this vital project. (You can see the original article here.)
Why is this new health center so important to the Roaring Fork Valley?
Mountain Family Health Centers’ mission is to provide high quality, integrated primary medical, behavioral, and dental health care in the communities we serve, with special consideration for the medically underserved.
Over 24% of residents of the Roaring Fork Valley (Pitkin, southwestern Eagle and eastern Garfield Counties) live at or below 200% of the federal poverty level, and 85% of all MFHC patients fit this description. This is less than $48,000 for a family of four. Despite the wealth in Aspen and other communities, there are large numbers of workers in the tourism, service and construction industries who make limited wages and have little or no health insurance benefits. Many work multiple jobs and large numbers travel up to two hours to reach their jobs in Aspen each day. This also leaves little time for medical visits, particularly when they are located far away. Currently, the Basalt Clinic serves only 2,000 of these 8,500 low income individuals.
In addition, thousands of other middle- to low income families may soon be at risk of losing coverage with the proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare). This health center will fulfill both current and coming medical needs for the valley’s residents.
Will Mountain Family Health Centers be bringing more services to the valley?
Mountain Family Health Centers, in partnership with Pitkin County and Aspen Valley Hospital, will open a new Basalt Health Center at 123 Emma Road, in the former Bristlecone Mountain Sports space. In this new, expanded clinic, Mountain Family will have the room to increase its capacity for medical care and behavioral health and add new services including dental care, pharmacy, laboratory services and care coordination.
There is an extreme shortage of behavioral health professionals in our region, despite the documented high need for mental health and substance use disorder services for both children and adults. At present, Mountain Family is only able to provide limited behavioral health services at the Basalt Health Center due to space constraints. The new health center will allow Mountain Family to more than double the number of patients who can receive behavioral health services in Basalt.
The Basalt Health Center does not currently have the space for providing dental health care services either, and the new health center will have space for a full dental clinic. Dental disease is a widely prevalent condition in children and adults, and can have significant impacts on one’s overall health. Dental problems are the number one cause of absenteeism of school children nationally and in the Roaring Fork Valley. Oral health is also a leading predictor for heart health, and some cardiovascular disease may be preventable with regular oral health visits.
Until this time, Mountain Family as not had the space to have an on-site pharmacy. The new Basalt Health Center pharmacy will directly address a social determinant of health, as patients with already stressed schedules and limited transportation options will be able to receive their prescriptions before they leave the clinic. This will result in quicker recovery and a more productive parent, worker, and member of society.
What makes Mountain Family different?
The Basalt Health Center expansion will provide comprehensive, integrated primary medical, behavioral and dental health care, supported by in-center pharmacy services. Mountain Family’s integrated care model consists of an interdisciplinary team of health and social service providers which will include physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and medical assistants; dentists, registered dental hygienists, dental assistants and sterilization technicians; behavioral health specialists including psychiatric specialists via telehealth; and care coordination specialists including patient educators, social health advocates and nurse complex care specialists.
The Basalt Health Center will provide all of these services on-site, in a model that connects all these services for our patients in one health care home. In addition to the services I just described, laboratory testing will be provided both on-site and through contracts with accredited labs. The Mountain Family care coordination team will also ensure patient access to and collaboration with outside providers and specialists and social, human services and other community agencies.
In addition, the establishment of a primary care health care home for those target populations identified above will reduce the strain on local hospital emergency departments, improve the management of chronic health conditions and have a positive impact on health disparities caused by the lack of access to appropriate health services.
How can the community support this new health center?
Mountain Family has started a capital campaign to raise funds for the Basalt Health Center expansion, and is seeking support from individuals and businesses to cover the costs of the renovation of the building. The easiest way to learn more about and support this capital campaign is by visiting our website www.mountainfamily.org. Feel free to contact me, Garry Schalla, at email@example.com or 970-945-2840 ext. 7290. I’m always happy to come and present to any club, group or civic organization as well.