Cory Arcarese’s brother Abelardo passed away from complications of diabetes in 2012.
“He pretty much fell through the primary care cracks in Texas,” Arcarese said.
On the road a lot as a delivery driver for Walmart, he had a hard time making and keeping medical appointments and wasn’t able to get the consistent care and information he needed to manage his diabetes.
“If he had had the availability to walk in for care, I probably would still have him,” Arcarese said.
When her brother passed away at age 55, he bequeathed his life insurance benefit to his sister.
“I decided to open a health care clinic where people are underserved,” Arcarese said.
Value Care Health Clinic, which opened its doors Dec. 4, 2014, is dedicated to Abelardo’s memory. In four years, the clinic has grown from one provider to five and a roster of 4,200 patients.
“Our primary goal is to offer people a medical home,” Arcarese said, where patients can get to know their providers and have continuity of care.
Open from 7:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. weekdays, with same-day appointments and walk-ins available, the clinic offers general family medicine from vaccinations to chronic disease management, non-life-threatening urgent care and minor office procedures. Medical assistants are bilingual; most of the staff speaks Spanish.
Patients are assigned to one of two health care teams composed of two nurse practitioners and two medical assistants. They are supported by Dr. Jill Watson, the clinic’s medical director, and administrative staff that manages medical records, the front desk, scheduling and referrals.
The team approach, headed by providers who are nurse practitioners, is a new health care model that is addressing the shortage of primary care doctors. According to the Colorado Health Institute, the state will lack more than 1,000 primary care physicians in 2025. While the shortage is especially acute in rural areas, urban settings are not immune.
“We’re the closest primary care to [people living in ZIP code] 80916,” a medically underserved area, Arcarese said.
Evidence supports the concept that primary care services can positively impact the lives of patients like Arcarese’s brother. A report from the Colorado Health Professions Workforce Policy Collaborative cites studies that show patients with adequate access to primary care have reduced mortality from chronic conditions, better detection of cancer, less use of emergency departments and better overall health.
Arcarese graduated summa cum laude from Concordia University-Austin with a degree in business administration and marketing and earned a master of science in accounting and finance from the University of Phoenix.
She worked as a regional director for Gannett Co. until she was recruited in 2006 by Freedom Communications, then-publisher of The Gazette, where she was vice president of circulation.
In 2010, she left the newspaper business and founded CArc Business Consulting to assist business owners with strategic planning and growth.
“I had a client who is a nurse practitioner who wanted to open her own clinic,” she said. “I helped her negotiate her lease and project out her supplies and per-payor mix. I realized that using the nurse practitioner model for primary care will work.”
Shortly after Arcarese’s clinic opened, it was selected by the Colorado Health Foundation to participate in a team-based practice initiative — the only startup chosen for the project.
“The leaders of that initiative were the former CEO and medical director of Clinica in Denver,” Arcarese said. “They put the practices through training in how to set up clinic flow based on best practices. … We grew very quickly. I feel like we are a success model for team-based care.”
Value Care also was part of the first cohort of practices in the Colorado State Innovation Model, an initiative funded by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to help primary-care providers integrate behavioral health into their practices.
“AspenPointe worked with us to provide mental health services,” Arcarese said. “Then we hired a psychiatric nurse practitioner so our patients get more holistic services. Those services are critical to making sure they stay healthy.”
Arcarese also is dedicated to the revitalization of southeast Colorado Springs and attends many meetings to advocate for affordable housing, better transportation, parks and other services.
“The clinic is not just creating jobs,” she said. “Having more medical services will help employers attract employees and help the area attract employers. It will also help break some of the stigma that’s down here. It’s not a war zone.
“I think a health clinic has a leadership responsibility in the community. It’s not just about health care; it’s about healthy lives. If we’re just offering vaccines, we’re not really taking care of patients. Our mission is to positively impact social justice through health care.”