By Mountain Family Health Centers

Mountain Family Health Centers CEO Ross Brooks and longtime Mountain Family physician Dr. Kent Petrie were each nominated for the 2018 Dr. Virgilio Licona Community Health Leadership Award with The Colorado Health Foundation. Here are excerpts from their nominations.

Ross Brooks, CEO

Under the leadership of Ross Brooks over the past five years, Mountain Family Health Centers has grown from three clinics to nine, and now serves more than 21,000 persons in the rural West Mountain Region. Mountain Family targets the 36,000 persons (28% of the total population) in Garfield, Eagle, Pitkin and Rio Blanco Counties who are low-income (defined as having a household income of ≤ 200% of the federal poverty level). Mountain Family’s penetration rate in this population is now 55%, and 85% of Mountain Family patients are low-income. Sixty percent of Mountain Family’s patients are Latino, many of whom speak limited English.

Ross Brooks is CEO of Mountain Family Health Centers.

Ross oversees Mountain Family’s strategic plan, quality, workforce, operations, finances, and all healthcare services. In this role he has positioned Mountain Family Health Centers as not only the fastest growing community health center in Colorado, it is also a leader in health care reform—offering patient-centered, value-based, fully integrated primary medical, behavioral and dental health care to the underserved, regardless of ability to pay. Ross and his team have implemented a broad care coordination program as part of this integrated care, which includes nurse complex care specialists, community health educators and patient navigators and is showing positive results in health outcomes and engagement in their health for complex needs patients.

During Ross’ tenure, Mountain Family clinics have received recognition from the National Center for Quality Assurance as Level III Patient-Centered Medical Homes, the highest recognition a primary care practice can receive. An example of patient-centered care at Mountain Family is 60% of the staff, including a majority of the clinical staff are bilingual, and a majority of those employees are bicultural, which improves care delivery for Mountain Family’s Latino patients.

Access to healthcare has significantly improved in the region under Ross’ direction, particularly for the under- and uninsured. Mountain Family utilized Colorado’s Medicaid expansion and the Connect for Health Program to successfully increase the percentage of Mountain Family patients enrolled in Medicaid by 84%, from 25% in FY 2013 to 46% in FY 2016, and decrease the number who are insured by 33% to from 48% to 32% during the same period. Mountain Family also offers a sliding fee scale discount program to those who are uninsured and/or cannot afford care, thus providing care to all.

Ross has led the effort to expand dental services in Garfield, Eagle, and Pitkin counties. When the new MFHC Rifle opened, with an onsite dental clinic this was the first foray into dental by MFHC, providing full preventive and treatment oral health services. The innovations continued with MFHC adding the virtual dental home SMILES teledentistry project in four locations this year. MFHC has also expanded access to dental care with its newly opened mobile MFHC Dental Van, which serves Pitkin, Western Eagle and Eastern Garfield Counties. Plans are underway to open full dental clinics in Basalt and Edwards, and eventually Glenwood Springs, when those clinics are expanded in the coming years. In addition, Ross is part of a task force, along with Aspen to Parachute Dental Health Alliance and Garfield County Public Health who are analyzing dental needs in the area to determine appropriate levels of care for children and other vulnerable populations.

Ross has been a leader in the Region One RCCO’s Accountable Care Collaborative and the Medicaid PRIME Program, successfully collaborating to decrease total cost of care and improve population health outcomes. Ross has had an important voice in healthcare and payment reform efforts and he has advocated strongly for maintaining coverage for the underserved as well as for community health centers in the state and nation.

Ross is driven by the simple principle that access to affordable health care is a human right, not a privilege. Thank you for all that you do, Ross!

Dr. Kent Petrie

Dr. Kent Petrie was nominated by Our Community Foundation in Eagle County. We agree that Dr. Petrie’s experience and passion make him a valuable team player dedicated to care for everyone. Here are excerpts from his nomination.

Dr. Petrie has practiced medicine in the Eagle River Valley since 1979 and was previously recognized as Colorado Family Physician of the Year. Dr. Petrie earned his medical degree from the University of Virginia in 1976 and started the Eagle Care Clinic for underserved patients in Eagle County, in 1994. He was excited to continue practicing medicine at the clinic when Mountain Family assumed ownership in 2014. Dr. Petrie is certified by the American Board of Family Medicine, and also sees patients at Vail Valley Medical Center and is the Eagle County Health Officer.

Dr. Petrie has been traveling abroad on medical missions for more than 20 years to Honduras organizing a large contingency of volunteers from Eagle County every other year, changing the lives of the volunteers as much as the patients that are seen. Dr. Petrie and his wife Martha, enjoy being very actively engaged with their very busy grandchildren, as well as being active elders at Eagle River Presbyterian Church.

This year, Our Community Foundation is beginning mobile delivery of healthy food to our under-resourced local neighborhoods. Dr. Petrie came to the warehouse to best understand local efforts to address hunger and suggested that Mountain Family Health can distribute food bags from the warehouse to patients. He will include information about this resource during medical appointments.

In my more than forty years as a resident of Eagle County, I would venture to guess that Dr. Petrie is quoted more than all of our celebrity skiers combined. The conversations in both English and Spanish usually start with “Well, Dr. Petrie said . . . “ and that is followed with sound medical advice and recommendations, as well as comforting and supportive empathy to parents and families. Dr. Petrie would not consider himself “quote-worthy.” It is Dr. Petrie’s generous actions that build the trust and confidence of his patients. Dr. Petrie chooses courage and commitment over comfort; he does what’s in the best interest of the patient, instead of choosing what may be easy. Dr. Petrie PRACTICES his values rather than professing them. Dr. Petrie models life well-lived.

What impact has the nominee made to drive positive health outcomes for rural health, migrant health and/or those most in need?

To be strong, healthy and prosperous, our community needs to ensure that people have access to quality health care to thrive and reach their full potential.

Access to quality primary health care that is consistent, available and professional helps protect and improve health. Affordable, quality health care is important to physical, social and mental wellness. Dr. Petrie has led the charge of assuring health access to our most under-resourced community members.

Dr. Petrie has attended more than 2500 births over 30 years of active medical practice in Eagle County. He has delivered the babies of the babies that he delivered. That consistency and strong community tie connects to positive health outcomes. When scheduled for a physical with Dr. Petrie, the patient does not have the sense that there is a backlog of patients waiting to be seen. Dr. Petrie takes the time to educate at each appointment, meeting patients where they are. If it’s education about community safety, behavioral health, alcohol or drug abuse and addiction or diet and exercise, the conversations are open and modified according to the needs and willingness of the patient.

Thank you for your years of dedication and leadership, Dr. Petrie! Congratulations to Liza Marron, founding director of the San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition (SLVLFC) in rural southern Colorado, for winning the 2018 Dr. Virgilio Licona Health Leadership Award with The Colorado Health Foundation.