Bigger, Better Health Care in Basalt
Mountain Family Health Centers (MFHC) will open a new integrated health center in Basalt in the fall of 2018. We recently spoke with MFHC Development Director Garry Schalla about the new clinic.
RFL: Why is this new health center so important in the Roaring Fork Valley?
Schalla: MFHC’s mission is to provide high quality, integrated primary medical, behavioral, and dental health care, with special consideration for the medically underserved.
Over 24 percent of residents of the Roaring Fork Valley (Pitkin, southwestern Eagle, and eastern Garfield Counties) live at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, and 85 percent of all MFHC patients fit this description. This is less than $48,000 for a family of four. Despite the wealth in the Aspen vicinity, 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 travel up to two hours to reach their jobs in Aspen. This can leave little time for medical visits. Currently, the Basalt Clinic serves only 1,000 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. This health center will fulfill both current and coming medical needs for valley residents.
RFL: Will MFHC bring more services to the valley?
Schalla: MFHC, in partnership with Pitkin County and Aspen Valley Hospital, will open the new Basalt Health Center at 123 Emma Road, in the former Bristlecone Mountain Sports space. In this expanded clinic, MFHC will have the room to increase its capacity for medical care and behavioral health and add new services including dental care, pharmacy and laboratory services, and care coordination.
There is an extreme shortage of behavioral health professionals in our region, despite the high documented need for mental health and substance use disorder services for both children and adults. At present, MFHC is only able to provide limited behavioral health services in Basalt due to space constraints. The new health center will allow us to more than double the number of patients who can receive behavioral health services there.
The Basalt Health Center does not currently have the space for providing dental health care services either, but the new one will have room for a full dental clinic.
Until this time, MFHC has 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 stressed schedules and limited transportation options will be able to receive their prescriptions before they leave the clinic. This means quicker recovery and a more productive parent, worker, and member of the community.
RFL: What makes Mountain Family different?
Schalla: The Basalt Health Center expansion will provide comprehensive, integrated primary medical, behavioral and dental health care, supported by in-center pharmacy services. MFHC’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 new Basalt Health Center will provide all of these services on-site, in a model that connects all these services in one health care home. Additionally, laboratory testing will be provided both on-site and through contracts with accredited labs. The 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 the target populations I identified earlier will reduce the strain on local hospital emergency departments, improve the management of chronic conditions, and have a positive impact on health disparities caused by the lack of access to appropriate services.
RFL: How can the community support this new health center?
Schalla: MFHC 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 building’s renovation. The easiest way to learn more about and support this campaign is to visit our website MountainFamily.org. Or feel free to contact me, Garry Schalla, at 970.945.2840 ext. 7290. I’m always happy to present to any club, group, or civic organization as well.