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U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper visited Idaho Springs Aug. 23 to meet with county officials and tour the county’s Health and Wellness Center he helped secure funding for last year.
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Funding for the center, which was completed in October 2021, came from a grant from Community Project Funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration secured by Hickenlooper, as well as from the Colorado Housing Fund, large donations from Henderson Mine, Loveland Ski Area and other businesses and individual donors.
The center comes as a welcome change for the county, which previously was without any primary care physicians since 2011, according to county officials.
The center offers services including primary care visits, mental and behavioral health visits, STD/STI testing, WIC programs, mammograms, a food bank and more.
“Doing something like this becomes a bell ringer, an inspiration, a catalyst,” Hickenlooper said. “I’m thoroughly impressed.”
However, county officials noted that the center still has some shortcomings.
Silver Plume Mayor Sam McCloskey expressed his hope for urgent care/emergency services in the future.
County Commissioner George Marlin also pointed out the glaring problem that individual marketplace Obamacare plans are not accepted at the Centura clinic in the center.
Kaiser and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield currently are the only companies to offer individual market plans in Clear Creek County, according to information provided by the Division of Insurance.
“The plans that are available on the individual marketplace, [Kaiser and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield], Centura did not accept either of those plans,” Marlin said.
Marlin said this is part of a larger hurdle of healthcare around the country.
“It fits into a theme; it's going to take a lot of work at a lot of levels to get healthcare where it's at an accessible level for a lot of people,” he said.
However, this will not be the case for Clear Creek for much longer thanks to the Colorado Option bill that was recently passed. The Colorado Option ensures affordable and available plans for Coloradans in every county. The option will be available at fall open enrollment for individuals and small groups, taking effect in January 2023.
State Rep. Dylan Roberts was one sponsor of the Colorado Option bill. He said the Colorado Option will help those in rural communities who previously did not have providers who accepted their plans.
“Part of the legislation, and now the law, is that providers need to accept patients that are insured by the Colorado Option,” Roberts said.
The towns that make up Clear Creek County all contributed to the plans for the Health and Wellness Center that opened last fall.
“I always felt that Silver Plume had as much of a voice as Idaho Springs or Georgetown, and I appreciated that,” McCloskey said.
In regards to the rural mental health crisis Clear Creek and other areas nationwide are facing, Hickenlooper hopes centers like this one can serve the communities they are built for.
“Mental health needs to be tailored to individual communities,” he said. “This facility was designed by these people; there’s a sense of ownership.”
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