Four Decades of Citizens Joining Together to Replace Vanishing Health Care
Mountain Family’s roots date to 1978 in Black Hawk, Colorado. When the area’s only physician retired, citizens formed the Gilpin County Health Clinic, later becoming Columbine Family Health Centers, with clinics in Black Hawk and Nederland.
Columbine’s success was noted by towns west of the Continental Divide who saw their own medical resources dwindling in the 1990s, when the area’s only pediatric practice willing to accept Medicaid suddenly closed its doors. Asked to open a clinic in Glenwood Springs, Columbine agreed despite the challenges of distance and weather, honoring its mission of ensuring health care for Colorado’s underserved.
As it expanded, Columbine became Mountain Family Health Centers, opening clinics in Rifle and Basalt in 2011 and Edwards in 2014. In the same year, the decision was reluctantly made to close the last remaining clinic on the Front Range due to the decreasing need due to the area’s changing demographics and establishment of new providers. During this time period, Mountain Family also began providing dental and behavioral health services to fully integrate the provision of health care.
Continuing the expansion, Mountain Family opened its first school-based health center in 2016 in Avon. In 2017, a mobile dental van was added to expand access to oral health care. The year 2019 brought the opening of the first of several planned expansions, with the opening of the new Basalt Integrated Health Center. This was followed by the opening of five school-based health centers at Roaring Fork Schools in 2021. In 2023, the Edwards health center was relocated and expanded to the new Avon Integrated Health Center. Later this year, the Gypsum Integrated Health Center will open. Future planned expansions include a relocated Glenwood Springs Integrated Health Center.
Today, Mountain Family Health Centers is a federally qualified health center system with ten health centers serving the West Mountain region of Garfield, Eagle, and Pitkin Counties. More than 24,000 residents of this region call Mountain Family their healthcare home, receiving affordable, patient-centered, integrated medical, behavioral, dental, and now pharmacy care where they live, work, and play.
Mountain Family Health Centers looks forward to the next forty-five years of Our Family Caring for Yours.
Founded by community members in Black Hawk in response to the town’s loss of its last family-practice physician. Federally Qualified Health Center status is granted to the new clinic by the Bureau of Primary Health Care (BPHC). Dianne Rittenhouse is the founding Director.
Name becomes Columbine Family Health Centers as a second clinic opens in Nederland.
Black Hawk Clinic expands in partnership with St. Anthony’s Hospital (now Centura) to prepare for the introduction of gambling and its associated construction boom, responding to the dramatic change brought by 15,000 casino workers and gaming customers coming in and out of Black Hawk each day.
Columbine crosses the Continental Divide to respond to the lack of pediatric Medicaid providers in Glenwood Springs, working with a group of citizens, public officials and medical providers to open the Glenwood Springs clinic on September 6. Funding from the Aspen Community Foundation, Caring for Colorado and the Boettcher Foundation made this possible. Dr. Chris Tonozzi, a Glenwood Springs native, returns to his home to be the clinic’s first physician, in space donated by Valley View Hospital.
First organizational Strategic Plan developed. Pillars included the development of a quality program, improved information technology infrastructure, addition of direct dental and mental health services and new financial strategies to support the rapid growth and plan for expansion along the I-70 corridor.
Columbine joins Bureau of Primary Health Care (BPHC) Diabetes Collaborative to learn how to create and manage patient registries and integrate quality data into chronic disease programs. Columbine Family Health also receives BPHC Expanded Medical Capacity grant to increase capacity of the Glenwood Springs site, growing the facility by 3,000 square feet and bringing the number of providers to four.
Board changes the name to Mountain Family Health Centers, and sets new mission: “To be the state’s leading health center in the utilization of technology to reduce cost and improve quality of care.” Administration is moved to Glenwood Springs to position for rapid growth.
Founding Executive Director Diane Rittenhouse retires and David Adamson is named her successor.
Glenwood Clinic expands again in space provided by Valley View Hospital to 9,000 square feet for 15 providers, with support from the Caring for Colorado foundation. The Mariposa Project is launched to support staff and confirm Mountain Family’s core values, the Six Principles, which still guide the organization today.
Mountain Family Board of Directors reluctantly votes to close Nederland clinic due to the changing demographics of the area and additional providers serving the area.
Medically-Underserved Population designation granted for Garfield County by the Bureau of Primary Health Care, and planning commences for new clinic facility in Rifle which will include dental and mental health services. Mountain Family Board updates the organization’s mission: “To provide high quality, integrated primary medical, behavioral, and dental health care in the communities we serve, with special consideration for the medically underserved, regardless of ability to pay.”
Mountain Family Health Centers opens 9,000 square foot Rifle clinic, with a long-term lease at a charity price for land donated by Garfield County. Funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, The Colorado Health Foundation, Caring for Colorado, the Gates Foundation, Aspen Community Foundation and EnCana Energy Corporation made this possible, as the region and country suffered through the great recession. The Rifle clinic includes Mountain Family’s first full preventive and treatment dental facility, and Dr. Garry Millard, DDS comes on board to build the program.
The Basalt clinic is opened by Mountain Family in response to a request from a group of public health and social service agencies from Pitkin and Eagle Counties, along with Aspen Valley Hospital, who donated the space.
In a joint venture with Mind Springs Health (formerly Colorado West Regional Mental Health Center), financed by The Colorado Health Foundation, Mountain Family introduces the integrated health model with a Mind Springs mental health specialist providing services in the primary care setting.
Mountain Family is the only community health center invited to join the first cohort of medical practices in the Colorado Beacon Consortium, designed to improve quality and reduce cost of care.
Executive Director David Adamson retires, and Ross Brooks is named Chief Executive Officer of Mountain Family Health Centers. Ross is charged with holding true to Mountain Family’s mission of providing high quality to care for the underserved while guiding the organization through the enormous changes unfolding under the Affordable Care Act.
Rocky Mountain Health Plans and Mountain Family partner for the delivery of integrated health care to Medicaid patients in Western Colorado under the umbrella of the Colorado Department of Health Care and Policy and Financing (HCPF)’s Medicaid Accountable Care Collaborative.
Mountain Family Glenwood Springs receives recognition as a Level III Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) from the National Committee on Quality Assurance (NQCA). This is the nation’s highest recognition bestowed on primary care providers.
Mountain Family Board adopts a new strategic plan, and affirms the mission is still “To provide high quality, integrated primary medical, behavioral, and dental health care in the communities we serve, with special consideration for the medically under-served, regardless of ability to pay.”
New Care Coordination Program implemented, in partnership with The Colorado Health Foundation and Rocky Mountain Health Plans, to help patients navigate the complex health care system and access the right care at the right time.
In response to requests from Eagle County Public Health and Vail Valley Medical Center, Mountain Family obtains new access point designation and funding from the Bureau of Primary Health Care and assumes responsibility for the Eagle Care Clinic, now known as the Edwards Integrated Health Center.
Rifle and Basalt clinics receive Level III PCMH recognition from the NQCA.
Mountain Family Health Centers is chosen as one of the Top Ten Best Companies to Work For in Colorado.
Avon-School Based Health Center becomes Mountain Family’s fifth clinic in response to requests from Eagle County Schools to become the medical and fiscal sponsor for the program.
Mountain Family Board of Directors adopts a new Strategic Plan focused on the Quadruple Aim. The four pillars of the plan are: (1) Improve the health of the population we serve, (2) Control the total cost of care for Mountain Family patients, (3) Provide a world class patient experience, and (4) promote an engaged and empowered workforce.
Bureau of Primary Health Care Oral Health Services Expansion funding is granted to Mountain Family for a mobile dental van.
Edwards clinic receives Level III PCMH recognition from the NQCA.
Mountain Family Health Centers is first community health center in Colorado to be named a Bronze Level Advocacy Center of Excellence, or “ACE” by the National Association of Community Health Centers.
Provision of “value-based care” at Mountain Family continues to increase through partnership with Rocky Mountain Health Plans in the Accountable Care Collaborative and Medicaid PRIME Programs. Mountain Family now serves more than 8,600 individuals enrolled in Medicaid annually, and is rewarded financially for improving quality outcomes, engaging patients in their own health and controlling total health care expenditures.
Mountain Family Health Centers Dental Van opens in El Jebel, significantly increasing access to dental care. Mountain Family registered dental hygienist places Colorado’s first Interim Therapeutic Restoration (ITR) after new state legislation enacted allowing this practice.
Mountain Family Health Center signs agreement with Pitkin County and Aspen Valley Hospital to expand services in Basalt and establish the Basalt Integrated Health Center at 123 Emma Road in Basalt.
Eagle County and Vail Valley Medical Center agree to partner with Mountain Family to build a new health center in Edwards to expand and integrate services.
Addition of psychiatric specialty care to continue expanding care for our patients.
Mountain Family achieves recognition as Tier 1 Advanced Primary Care Practice by Rocky Mountain Health Plans, which serves as the Region 1 RAE (Regional Accountable Entity).
Basalt Integrated Health Center opens, supported by Pitkin and Eagle Counties and Aspen Valley Hospital.
Pharmacy Program begins providing low-cost prescriptions for patients who do not have insurance.
Medication Assisted Therapy becomes available for substance use disorder treatment.
Mountain Family takes a leadership role in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, offering prevention, testing, and treatment services to all. Telehealth appointments are implemented across all sites for all services.
In response to extreme disparities and unequal health, economic, and social impacts faced by the Latinx community in our region, Mountain Family clarified its goal of promoting social, racial, economic, and healthcare justice within the communities we serve.
At the request of Roaring Fork Schools, Mountain Family assumes operation of four school-based health centers and opens a fifth at Glenwood Springs High School.
COVID-19 vaccinations provided to thousands of patients and community members at Mountain Family’s health centers, community locations, and local schools.
Sliding Fee Scale Discount Program expanded to people with household incomes of ≤ 400% of poverty level in response to high rates of uninsurance.
Mountain Family’s mission updated to: We improve the health of our community by providing equitable and affordable medical, behavioral, and dental healthcare for all.
Launched Mountain Family Health Services Corps to educate and promote persons of color and immigrants within the organization.
Developed new workforce advancement program to provide no-cost training for entry level persons of color and medical, dental, and behavioral health assistants to become certified in their field and in Spanish-language medical interpretation.
As Mountain Family focuses on expanding health futures, the Avon Integrated Health Center opens in January and Gypsum Integrated Health Center scheduled to open in Fall, supported by Vail Health and Eagle County. Edwards Integrated Health Center closes as the staff moves to Avon.
New DIBBE Committee is created to promote Diversity, Inclusivity, Belonging, Equity, and Engagement at Mountain Family.
Mountain Family Board adopts 2023 Strategic Plan, which was developed in an organization-wide SOAR process, with new vision, guiding principles, goals, and strategies. Mountain Family’s vision is to be advocates of health healing by providing quality integrated healthcare to the whole community.
Now and Beyond
Mountain Family Health Centers is celebrating its 45th year of providing affordable, equitable, patient-centered, team- and value-based, integrated primary medical, behavioral, dental and pharmacy health care to all. Our Family Caring for Yours. Our Family Caring for Yours.