The Fourth Annual Safety Net Clinic Week Shines Light on the Limited Resources for the Medically Underserved

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The Safety Net Clinic Week is a week-long celebration focused on raising awareness of Colorado’s healthcare safety net providers –federally certified Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) and Community Safety Net Clinics (CSNCs).

Whether stand-alone RHCs or provider-based clinics affiliated with a hospital - Safety Net Clinic Week is an opportunity to highlight their many success stories - in addition to educating the public and policymakers concerning their unique challenges.

Colorado’s federally certified Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) and Community Safety Net Clinics (CSNCs) recently celebrated Safety Net Clinic Week, August 19th through 23rd, with a variety of local and statewide events. The Colorado Rural Health Center (CRHC) was proud to participate in the week-long celebration, which included an official State of Colorado Proclamation from the Governor’s office.    

The week kicked off during an open house at Doctors Care, a community safety net clinic in Littleton. More than twenty-five community members, as well as policymakers, attended the event, and Governor Hickenlooper’s Senior Health Policy Advisor, Katherine Blair, read the Governor’s proclamation declaring Safety Net Clinic Week. Over the course of the week, eleven state senators and representatives, Congressman Polis, and two staffers from the offices of Senator Bennet and Congressman Coffman, toured clinics. Additionally, seven clinics celebrated by holding open houses.

The CRHC’s Policy and Advocacy Manager, Alicia Haywood, collaborated with ClinicNET staff to plan activities and create resources to celebrate Safety Net Clinic Week. One of those events was an open house at Rocky Family Health Center in Rocky Ford. A federally certified RHC in Otero County – the clinic recently celebrated 10 years of providing care to their community. “I have known Doug Miller and many of his staff for years,” said Haywood. “I am always inspired by the level of commitment and tenacity that rural providers display. They are never daunted!”    

“Nearly 70 percent of our members are part of the state’s crucial healthcare safety net,” said Michelle Mills, Chief Executive Officer of the Colorado Rural Health Center. “Whether they are stand-alone RHCs or provider-based clinics affiliated with a hospital, Safety Net Clinic Week is a great opportunity to highlight their many success stories and achievements, but also educate the public and policymakers concerning their unique challenges.”

Safety net clinics face many challenges including IT connectivity, limited grant funding, a shortage of providers and an aging workforce. One challenge that remains unclear is the high volume of uninsured patients that safety net providers serve.

Even with the expansion of the Medicaid Program to cover people with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, safety net providers anticipate they will play a vital role caring for the 23 million people expected to remain uninsured after implementation of the Affordable Care Act (figure estimated by the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation). In Colorado the number of uninsured is estimated to be around 390 thousand according to the Colorado Health Institute.

Colorado’s federally certified Rural Health Clinics and Community Safety Net Clinics encompass 95 clinics throughout Colorado. The CRHC works to provide advocacy, education, and lobbying at the state and national level on behalf of Colorado’s 52 federally certified Rural Health Clinics. Additionally, CRHC provides many programs to assist federally certified RHCs, including a variety of support services such as billing, coding and credentialing, health information technology, including attestation with meaningful use, quality and performance improvement coaching, mock surveys, and compliance and regulation evaluation.

The CRHC thanks everyone who participated in Safety Net Clinic Week and asks that you continue to advocate for and raise awareness of the unique challenges these clinics face in the ever-changing healthcare landscape. If you are interested in learning more about Safety Net Clinic Week, visit our website for more information at, http://coruralhealth.org/programs/rhc/safetynetclinicweek.htm. A map of Colorado CSNCs and federally certified RHCs is available at, http://bit.ly/15X15YN.

About The Colorado Rural Health Center
The Colorado Rural Health Center was established in 1991 as Colorado's State Office of Rural Health. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, CRHC serves dual roles as the State Office of Rural Health with the mission of assisting rural communities in addressing health care issues; and as the State Rural Health Association, advocating for policy change to ensure that rural Coloradoans have access to comprehensive, affordable health care services of the highest quality. For more information visit http://www.coruralhealth.org, call 303-832-7493, or call toll free 800-851-6782 from rural Colorado.

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