Basalt health clinic opens |

Basalt health clinic opens

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
Nan Sundeen, director of Department of Health and Human Services.

BASALT – A new primary care clinic has quietly opened in Basalt to help uninsured and underinsured residents of the Roaring Fork Valley, including the Aspen area.

Glenwood Springs-based Mountain Family Health Centers opened the clinic last month at 234 Cody Lane. It’s open four days a week: Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, from 7:45 a.m. to 3 p.m. Individuals with Medicaid and Medicare benefits are accepted, as are those with no insurance who are asked to pay on a sliding scale depending on income.

David Adamson, executive director of Mountain Family, said the clinic is staffed by a full-time nurse practitioner with duties similar to a doctor. She has the training and ability to diagnose a health condition and then provide the appropriate treatment for patients, including prescribing medications.

Adamson said the idea for opening a clinic in Basalt grew from discussions with Nan Sundeen, Pitkin County director of health and human services, and Dave Ressler, CEO of Aspen Valley Hospital. The clinic is sharing the same location as AVH’s after-hours urgent care clinic, Adamson said.

“We’re glad to be there and we think it’s going to be a really going place. We appreciate the support we’ve gotten from Pitkin County and the Aspen hospital and we’re looking forward to a bright future,” he said.

Adamson said that a few years ago, following the closing of a primary clinic in Basalt, Ressler and Sundeen recognized a need for another facility in the Basalt area that would treat Medicaid patients and those without insurance. That need grew as the recession got worse, he said.

“Nan Sundeen is always watchful for people in need and I think she just said, ‘If there’s a way to do this let’s take a look at it and see if it’s possible,’ ” he said.

Before Mountain Family could open a clinic, Adamson said, permission was needed from the federal Bureau of Primary Health Care, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The bureau is sensitive about where it allows clinics, which rely on federal support. A measure of proof was needed to show that not everyone in the Aspen area is wealthy and has health benefits.

“The bureau is a major stakeholder in what we do,” he said. “They cleared it because they saw that we have a special mission to help those who are uninsured or on Medicaid and to make sure people have access to care. Medicaid is a problem across the state – the reimbursements are not very good and the private-sector doctors, though they do try, can’t afford to take the volume of those patients on. Since the recession, the number of patients on Medicaid has just shot through the roof.”

Mountain Family held a soft opening because the company is extremely busy right now – a 9,000-square-foot primary care clinic with dental services opened in Rifle on Monday – and wanted to start out with only a few patients at a time while getting the staff and technology up to speed in a new facility. Rachel Menke, the family nurse practitioner, hails from New Mexico and is overseeing health services at the Basalt clinic.

The clinic is working with Aspen Valley Hospital for specialty services on an as-needed basis, Adamson said.

“Health centers [such as ours] exist to take care of everyone,” he said. “We’re very vigilant about people who have serious illnesses. Yes, we do urgent care – we stitch people up if they have light fractures – but we do the full gamut of primary health care and work with a lot of the agencies around the area.”

Adamson estimated that Mountain Family sees almost one-tenth of the people in the region in need of health care. Though the Basalt facility is designed to treat patients in the upper Roaring Fork Valley, there are no geographical limitations and anyone can seek its services, he said.

“We welcome people from anywhere,” Adamson said. “There are health centers in the state that draw geographical boundaries. We don’t do that.”

Though Mountain Family opened a five-station dental clinic at the new Rifle facility, dental services are not planned for Basalt, he said.

“If we do dental anywhere else it will probably be in Glenwood Springs,” he said. “Dental is a little different from primary health care because dental has virtually no payers – there is virtually no government program that takes it on. It’s expensive and it’s procedure-oriented.”

Sundeen said she’s excited that the new upvalley clinic is open because it means Medicaid and uninsured Pitkin County residents needing primary health care don’t have to travel all the way to Glenwood Springs.

Aspen Valley Hospital is providing financial support toward Mountain Valley’s Basalt clinic, Sundeen said.

“The Board of County Commissioners and the hospital board had a joint meeting two years ago and the topic of how we are serving our uninsured and Medicaid clients came up,” she explained. “The two boards directed staff to go and find a solution because we don’t really have physicians who will take Medicaid. And our seniors have a problem finding physicians who will accept Medicare.

“Our most vulnerable clients had to go out of the county to get medical services,” Sundeen added. “Dave Ressler and I met for a period of time, and we met with David Adamson, because Mountain Family already has a model for the federally qualified health center. They know how to do it and it seemed like the very best solution.”