Thirty-four grants, funded by Colorado’s new tobacco tax, which totals $8,688,269, have been awarded to state health care organizations and health departments to expand programs and establish programs for the prevention and treatment of cancer, cardiovascular disease and pulmonary disease.

The programs include initiatives to provide free colorectal screening for low-income Coloradoans who don’t have health insurance, programs to ensure better and timelier treatment of strokes and a proposal for a mobile disease screening service for rural counties in southeastern Colorado.

A 16-member task force reviewed the grant applications. The awards will be administered by the Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease and Pulmonary Disease Program at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Recipients in El Paso County:

El Paso County Department of Health and Environment – $1.5 million

This grant will pay for improving infrastructure and building capacity for prevention, screening and treatment of chronic diseases through community-based education and intervention. A one-time expense for an InterLink computer and database system valued at $1 million is included. The system will connect participating clinics, reducing staff request, travel and data collection.

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Kaiser Permanente Colorado – $300,000

The grant will fund a hypertension management project, which will use interactive voice response technology that will be delivered in three health care systems across Colorado, including El Paso County. This interactive voice-response-based program will reach more patients using fewer resources than traditional office visits; it will facilitate patients’ acquisition of medications by allowing them to order and receive medications at home; and it will enhance medication adherence using tailored educational and motivational messages.

Penrose-St. Francis Health Foundation – $56,149

This grant will pay for the implementation of community-based health screenings at the Penrose-St. Francis Health Learning Center for adults living in El Paso and Teller counties. The program includes businesses and organizations, where health screenings will be conducted to assess high-risk individuals. Those individuals will receive immediate, on-site health counseling.

Insurers give a boost to CoverColorado

According to a story in the Denver Business Journal, five Colorado health plans have contributed $5 million to CoverColorado through a premium tax credit established by the Colorado General Assembly. The $5 million is the maximum allowed.

CoverColorado is the state’s high-risk health insurance company for people who were declined health insurance because of pre-existing conditions. CoverColorado serves about 5,000 people statewide, according to the report.

The following insurers contributed to the program: Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Cigna HealthCare, Humana Medical, Humana Dental and United Healthcare.

CHA president steps down

Larry H. Wall, president and CEO of the Colorado Health and Hospital Association, will leave his position Feb. 28. Wall has been at the association for 31 years and said in a news release that he is ready for a change.

“That’s a long time in that role,” Wall said. “I would like to pursue other interests.”

“Healthcare has undergone many changes over the past 30 years,” said C.W. Smith, chairman of the CHA board. “Larry has always sought ways patients, communities, hospitals and doctors can benefit from those changes. All Coloradoans have benefited from his leadership. He is recognized by his peers at the local, state and national level for his integrity, courage and vision.”

During Wall’s tenure, he promoted hospital public accountability and growth through competition, and repealed the certificate-of-need process. Under his leadership, CHA was one of the first state hospital associations that promoted educating hospital trustees.

CHA also founded the eight-state Western Regional Trustee Symposium, an annual meeting to update trustees on key hospital issues, during Wall’s watch.

The CHA will conduct a national search to replace Wall. The board appointed Peter Freytag, COO and vice president of finance, as interim president.

Penrose-St. Francis Foundation head honored

Jerry Bagg, president and chief development officer of the Penrose-St. Francis Health Foundation, received the Elizabeth Ann Seton Award by the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati. The award will be presented Jan. 8.

The Sisters of Charity selected Bagg for extending the ministry during the last 20 years and exceeding foundation fundraising goals.

The Elizabeth Seton Award is presented each year in celebration of St. Elizabeth Seton’s feast day, which is Jan. 4. Established in 1983, the award recognizes contributions and service rendered to the Sisters of Charity.

The accolade, which was once presented to Sisters of Charity congregation members, is now presented to lay people only.

The Sisters of Charity assumed ownership of Penrose Hospital in the early 1890s.

Marylou Doehrman covers health care for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.