Note: This story has been updated to include comments from Matthews-Vu CEO Debbie Chandler, provided after publication.
In addition, Peak Vista Community Health Centers has announced it will open a clinic in the 80916 zip code, further increasing the number of medical providers who serve the area.
Value Care founder and owner Cory Arcarese said she and her staff will continue to work at the clinic.
“I’m actually going to stay on and do business development for them,” Arcarese said. “I’m going to help them with their mission and vision, which is very much aligned with what we’re doing.”
Matthews-Vu currently has offices on Woodmen Road, North Nevada Avenue near downtown and Pro Rodeo Drive in Rockrimmon.
“Matthews-Vu will be merging practice with our practice effective March 1,” Matthews-Vu CEO Debbie Chandler said.
“Our plan is to be able to provide additional care coordination for those patients,” she said. “We have care managers who work with patients to help them get access not just to health care, but to make sure they can get good food and housing. We also have integrated behavioral health; our goal is to bring better access to behavioral health services to that population.”
Value Care, at 1050 S. Academy Blvd., serves as a medical home to about 4,200 patients. Providers that include two nurse practitioners and two medical assistants are supported by Dr. Jill Watson, the clinic’s medical director. The clinic has been the only provider of primary care services in the 80910 zip code area.
“Our plan is to hire a physician, full time by this summer, to work with the NPs and PAs,” Chandler said. “When we get staffed up and we get a physician on site, we would hope to see another couple of thousand patients.”
The practice will be accepting Medicare-Medicaid patients as well as those with commercial insurance.
Arcarese said the clinic has eight exam rooms and that the facility has additional space for expansion.
“We would hope by later this year to offer urgent care services. as well as maybe some weekend access hours before the end of this year,” Chandler said.
The practice is looking to hire health care providers for the clinic, especially Spanish speakers, she said. Providers can apply through the Matthews-Vu website, matthewsvu.com.
Peak Vista Center
Peak Vista plans to open its new center at 1815 Jet Wing Drive by Feb. 18. The organization purchased the 35,000-square-foot building, the former location of Altierus Career College, in January for about $4.2 million. Nearly $3 million has been budgeted for renovations. The clinic will open in temporary quarters with medical and behavioral health services on a small scale while the building undergoes renovations. By next fall, it will offer comprehensive primary medical, dental and behavioral health care.
Services will include routine preventive exams, same-day treatment of acute illness and injury, ongoing primary care, lab and pharmacy services, and chronic disease care and management, as well as referrals to specialty care when needed.
The clinic will have six medical providers that will be a mix of physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners, as well as two master’s-level behavioral health providers, a dentist and dental hygienist, nine medical assistants and two to four dental assistants. On-site navigators will help enroll and guide patients through the health care marketplace and will provide patient education.
“I truly believe in the model of primary health care,” Peak Vista CEO and President Pam McManus said. “I think it’s critical that we have preventive care and access to coordinated care. That’s one of the exciting things about our system of care — it’s really a health care team … that works with patients on their goals and needs.”
Primary care offers “incredible cost savings to the system,” she said. “There’s the human component that’s critical, but primary care also makes a difference in the economics of health care. It saves people from high-cost emergency care.”
Peak Vista’s new clinic also will offer training for medical and dental assistants to encourage hiring from the community.
The medical assistant program will be offered through a partnership with the National Institute of Medical Assistant Advancement. The dental assistant course is a collaboration with Peak Vista’s dental service program.
“Medical assistants are a critical part of the health care team,” McManus said.
According to NIMAA’s website, they often are the first point of contact for patients; they help with previsit planning, perform clinical tests and procedures, and support patients through education and motivational coaching.
“It’s going to be an incredible health center, but it’ll also be helping the economy by having the jobs there and also offering training for the jobs,” McManus said.
Peak Vista has several facilities in the 80910 zip code area, including the Entrada School-Based Health Center at Carmel Middle School and the health center at Printers Parkway. The organization already serves more than 11,000 people who live in 80916.
Having another clinic in the Southeast has been a part of Peak Vista’s strategic plan for years, McManus said.
The impetus for the new clinic “really comes from conversations about the health care desert and the fact that 80916 did not have any medical facility in it,” she said. “It was an incredible opportunity that came together through community partnerships, collaboration and listening to the resident leaders in the area.”
Expanding access to primary and urgent care throughout the community is part of Penrose-St. Francis Health Services’ strategic plan as well, “but I don’t believe that we have any definite plans to build anything new in that area of the city right now,” Communications Manager Andrea Sinclair said.
UCHealth already operates several health care facilities at Printers Park Medical Plaza, as well as a very busy urgent care clinic at 2767 Janitell Road, but there are no plans to expand further in the Southeast region, Media Relations Specialist Cary Vogrin said.
Momentum for change
Value Care and Peak Vista’s clinics represent “huge strides that are responsive to what we have heard — that people are having to travel a fair distance to access services and that it can be a major burden depending on transportation accessibility,” said Aubrey Day, healthy environment planner with El Paso County Public Health.
“Prior to Peak Vista making its announcement, there was no primary care in 80916 specifically,” Day said. “Value Care has been a great addition to the community and much closer proximity-wise than any other services.”
Improving access to health care was one of the primary recommendations in a May 2018 report by the Urban Land Institute, which sent representatives to spend a week in the Southeast.
“The panel heard about the large impact caused by relocation of health and community services out of Southeast and the difficulty of accessing those services through public transit,” Day said. “Technically the [El Paso County Service Center] and Public Health used to be in Southeast when we were located across from Memorial Park.”
The report recommended reintroduction of permanent facilities, collocating with existing facilities such as the recently established WIC clinic, and mobile clinics. As a result, Public Health met with local leaders, applied for a grant from the Colorado Health Foundation and was awarded $1.1 million over three years to build a community hub at the Mission Trace Shopping Center.
Plans for redevelopment are in the conceptual stage, Day said. Public Health is partnering with the Rise Coalition, Solid Rock Community Development Corp. and developer Matt Craddock, who owns a large chunk of the center, to facilitate the project.
“As an agency, we are focused primarily on whether there is a need for and an opportunity to include health services at Mission Trace,” she said.
Public Health operates the WIC clinic at 2948 E. Fountain Blvd., which supports women and children with supplemental food, education on nutrition, immunizations and referrals to other community programs.
Otherwise, Public Health’s role is not to provide health care but to bring partners together and share data to meet the community’s needs, Day said.
Besides access to services, other factors limit the choices of residents in the Southeast and keep them from achieving their best health, Day said. They include lack of safe places where residents can be physically active, quality housing and healthy food options.
“They are in a food desert, which is determined as a combination of low-income census tract and low access to a supermarket,” Day said. “It’s also anecdotally something we call a food swamp, meaning that they’re inundated with unhealthy options on top of limited healthy options.
“These are all things on our radar, and they have a lot of momentum right now,” she said. “We’re trying to take a systemic approach to it.”