Business Monday: Mountain Family Health Centers looks to triple its space in Basalt

Mountain Family Health Centers family nurse practitioner Jenny Lang interacts with 2-year-old Airam Briseno, who was at the health center, with her mom, Gloria Gonzalez, for a check-up earlier this year.
Chelsea Self / Glenwood Spring Post Independent file photo

A regional health center organization is in the midst of a $2.5 million fundraising campaign to expand its services to low-income patients in the Roaring Fork Valley.

On Thursday at Aspen Skiing Co.’s headquarter offices, Mountain Family Health Centers launched its first of 14 meet-and-greets with people throughout the Roaring Fork Valley and along the Interstate 70 corridor.

Mountain Family Health Centers, in cooperation with Pitkin County and Aspen Valley Hospital, plans to relocate its clinic on Cody Lane to the Basalt building that houses Stubbies tavern and the Ho Palace and Subway restaurants.

Those businesses would not go away, while Mountain Family Heath Center would take up 9,000 square feet of ground level and some second-level space, said Garry Schalla, the organization’s development director. That’s triple the size of its current space.

Pitkin County owns the property at 123 Emma Road that Mountain Family Health Centers plans to lease starting in December. The county bought the property for $3.2 million in November 2016 as temporary offices for a portion of its staff members until its new building, which is under construction on East Main Street, opens in mid-July.

“A couple of years ago we were looking at properties and talking to Pitkin County,” Schalla said. “And because of our long-term relationship with the county, and our vision, that was part of the impetus for them to purchase the building, knowing they would need it for 12 to 18 months and then they would have a long-term tenant in Mountain Family.”

Money raised from the campaign will go toward remodeling the space for offices that will have medical, dental and behavioral services. That includes funding the purchases of desks, exam tables X-ray machines, dental units, and ADA-compliant elevators, among other medical needs.

“We serve people mainly below the poverty level,” Schalla said, noting the new clinic would aid an estimated 3,500 patients a year.

Twenty-seven percent of Roaring Fork Valley residents — that’s 13,761 individuals ­— reside in low-income households, according to Mountain Family.

In Pitkin County, 15 percent of the population is uninsured, said Nan Sundeen, head of Pitkin County’s Human Services Department.

“And the state average is 6 percent,” she said. “So we have a bigger issue here in the mountain region primarily because of the cost of living and the seasonal nature of the work. And I think the county’s perspective is that this is a basic human need, primary health care.”

Pitkin County also has agreed to chip in $75,000 annually to Mountain Family Health Center’s new Basalt clinic, with the money coming from its Healthy Community Fund.

Aspen Valley Hospital also has committed to paying rent for the new clinic. The hospital and Mountain Family Health Center’s existing clinic in Basalt currently share space. The hospital runs it as an after-hours clinic and sublets its space for free to Mountain Family for its daytime use.

“At the minimum, we will be there 40 years,” Schalla said. “And Aspen Valley Hospital has generously stepped up and said they will be paying our rent for a minimum of three years.”

Those annual lease payments will total $150,000, an amount that is a reduced rate provided by landlord Pitkin County, noted David Ressler, CEO of the Aspen hospital.

“Pitkin County is basically giving us, or Mountain Family Health Centers, a cut rate to have that space,” said Ressler, adding the county and hospital also will share the costs of covering whatever operating losses the new Basalt clinic will likely sustain.

Also helping is Aspen Skiing Co. through its employee foundation, which has put up a $100,000 challenge grant toward what Mountain Family Health Centers calls its “Building Health for All” campaign to develop the new Basalt Integrated Health Center.

Mountain Family Health Center accepts patients Medicare and Medicaid patients, as well as those who are uninsured or under-insured.

However, Schalla explained, “The one thing we want to make sure of is that we are not a free clinic.” Patients pay a reduced rate through a sliding fee scale, Schalla said, adding that about 85 percent of Mountain Family’s patients live at 200 percent below the federal poverty-level rate.

Based in Glenwood Springs where it also has a clinic, Mountain Family Health Center has locations in Avon, Edwards and Rifle. It also has a mobile dental van out of El Jebel, along with school-based dental projects in Parachute.

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