Peak Vista Community Health Centers contributed $75.3 million to the local economy in 2011, according to a state study released recently.

Statewide, community health care centers produced $735 million in activity, including $396 million in operating expenses, the study showed. Statewide, 18 centers operate much like Peak Vista.

The state study looked at operating activity and used an economic multiplier to derive the 2011 figures, said Brady Fitzwater, vice president of finance at Peak Vista. In 2011, Peak Vista’s operating expenses were $46.8 million. The following year, the nonprofit organization had $52.1 million in annual operating expenses, a growth of 7 percent.

“Meeting the needs of the community is what drove most of that,” said Pam McManus, president and CEO. “The need for health care is growing faster than the community.”

The number of employees at Peak Vista has also increased, from 510 in 2011 to 622 today, said Marjorie Noleen, assistant vice president of communications. Statewide, community health centers generated jobs for 3,621 persons and an additional 2,404 jobs in other businesses, the study read.

Peak Vista contracts with GE Johnson for its capital projects, and that creates an economic ripple effect, Fitzwater said.

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“It’s another incidental benefit of that growth,” Fitzwater said. “We’re building new facilities to reinvest.”

Peak Vista provides medical, dental and behavioral health care for low income, uninsured and underinsured persons in the Pikes Peak region. It operates 21 outpatient centers at 16 locations in El Paso and Teller counties. Statewide, centers provide health care to more than 600,000 people.

They are also governed by their patients and a group of volunteers from the community. At Peak Vista, 51 percent of the board is comprised of clients, McManus said.

“We really keep all the decisions here,” she said. “This is truly local.”

“It’s not only local, but it’s also very consumer-driven,” Fitzwater said.

The average co-pay for a medical visit is $10, McManus said, adding, “As you can imagine, collecting $10 a visit is not going to pay for all of the care needed.”

The federal government provided $5.6 million in grants in 2011, rising to $6.1 million in 2012, said Fitzwater. Some of that money bridges the gap between costs and copays.

El Pomar Foundation provides around $300,000 annually to Peak Vista; over the course of time, El Pomar has granted the nonprofit more than $11 million.

Peak Vista serves 1,200 patients on a typical day. Last year, the clinics served 66,000 patients, McManus said.

“The 66,000 are people we’ve seen. Some patients don’t come every year,” McManus said. “We’re seeing growth this year.”

Nationally, one out of 15 persons are served by community health centers, Fitzwater said. Here, it’s one out of 10.

“That’s one of the statistics that really hits home with what we’re doing here helping people,” McManus said.

Colorado Medicaid clients of community health centers tend to be one-third less likely to have preventable hospital admissions, emergency room visits, or inpatient hospitalization, the study said. For Peak Vista, that statistic is the same, McManus said.

During the economic slump of 2008-09, Peak Vista began its first waiting list. At its height, some 9,000 persons — many of them new patients — were waiting for services.

“We’ve been working diligently to get that down,” Noleen said.

“By the end of the year, if not sooner, we won’t have a wait list,” McManus said.

[pullquote]Nationally, one out of 15 persons are served by community health centers, but here it’s
one in 10.[/pullquote]

Peak Vista is currently working to expand services at the former Penrose Community Hospital and at UCCS’ Lane Center for Academic Health Services. Both phases total $14.3 million in projected costs.

At 3205 and 3207 N. Academy Blvd., the former Penrose Community Hospital is reviving as medical office space. The 189,000-square-foot campus has many purposes, focused on primary medical, dental and behavioral health care.

McManus said she had lunch recently at a nearby Subway. “The manager there was saying how excited they were that there was activity there,” McManus said. “She was saying how her business was improving because of the activity.”

The Lane Center at UCCS will include 8,000 square feet owned by Peak Vista. It will be used for primary health care, education and research services for adults 55 and older.

A 14,000-square-foot new building is being built at U.S. Highway 85 and Lyckman Drive in Fountain. This facility, projected to cost $5.1 million, will feature a focus on primary medical, dental and behavioral health care.