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CO Community Health Centers Set to Help as Reform Takes Effect

May 10, 2010

DENVER - As Colorado's health care system prepares for changes under the new federal reforms, the state's community health centers are getting ready to play a bigger role. Last week, the Colorado Health Foundation announced a new round of grants to the state's so-called safety net clinics that serve the uninsured and under-insured. The people that run the clinics say it helps fill in some gaps created by shrinking state funding, as well as increasing funds to help meet the growing demand created by the recession and by the new reforms going into effect.

David Adamson, who directs Mountain Family Health Centers, which received a grant to help get a new clinic up and running in Rifle, says more patients are coming.

"As the health care reform bill starts to unfold, health centers are probably going to absorb quite a few of those new patients, especially those that are on Medicaid."

Adamson says that's because community health centers already have the infrastructure in place, with clinics around the state providing medical, mental health and dental services.

He says that, while he thinks Colorado's community health centers are well-positioned to help meet the demand as the health system changes, they're still working hard right now to keep up with the crush of people who have recently lost jobs or health coverage.

"Because of the collapse of the methane drilling industry, and the resort areas of course have been hurting pretty bad, and construction, obviously, has been severely wounded, our numbers have been steadily going up."

Adamson says the State of Colorado had some great preventive care programs in the past, but some have fallen victim to the budget axe in recent years.

"Colorectal screening and HeartSmart, a navigation program for people with cardiovascular disease; a lot of these programs took severe cuts."

Colorado's 15 federally-qualified health centers will share in the $18 million in grants announced by the Colorado Health Foundation. Adamson says the new Rifle clinic will potentially serve thousands of patients on the Western Slope.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - CO