The Noyes Health Care Center in Baggs, Wyo., would have a hard time existing without the help of Moffat County.
The health care clinic uses a Moffat County doctor. It's partially funded by the Moffat and Routt County governments. When the Little Snake River Valley's ambulance crew picks up a patient, it brings the person to Craig.
And when Baggs and Little Snake River Valley residents don't go to their local clinic for health care, they usually travel to Craig. During the past two years, at least 46 Little Snake residents have received services from the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association.
The VNA bills the Wyoming residents according to what they can afford to pay, VNA spokeswoman Carrie Godes said. Sometimes the bill is for nothing.
The Little Snake River Valley soon might have to start paying for these services.
The next time the health care center asks for money from Moffat County, the commissioners plan to have the center's management justify the request.
The VNA also intends to ask, through the commissioners, for money from Carbon County.
But Little Snake River Valley residents don't think they're mooching off Moffat County for their medical care.
"The clinic, it's really, really needed, and I know Moffat County might sometimes think they're helping out the valley, but the valley helps out Moffat County, too," Baggs resident Scott Herald said. He owns Outlaw Liquors in Baggs, and his wife works at Noyes Health Care Center.
Buying grain, groceries and other goods in Craig is just one way Baggs residents contribute to Craig's economy, Dr. Thomas Told said. He works at the clinic for a half a day once a week.
Moffat County has supported the clinic since its creation, Told said.
When the University of Wyoming created the clinic 25 years ago, the plan was for Wyoming doctors to staff it. But Baggs is 70 miles from Rawlins, the nearest Wyoming city. No Rawlins doctors were interested in working there, Told said.
So the University of Wyoming made a special agreement with Craig doctors to provide coverage at the clinic. Over the years, Craig doctors either dropped out of the program or moved from the area.
"I've kind of continued being the only doctor going up there," Told said.
The clinic is a nonprofit organization. It provides the full range of services most family practices do. It can also provide X-rays, basic blood work, and immunizations.
Ronald Taylor has served as the clinic's physician assistant for the past five years.
"The patient load has increased dramatically since he's been here," said Bonnie Andrew, the clinic's book manager.
According to Andrew, half the clinic's patients live in Carbon County, with the remainder coming from Moffat and Routt Counties. Residents of Routt County's Three Forks area go to Baggs rather than Steamboat Springs, because the trip is easier in the winter, Andrew said.
The Little Snake River ambulance crew also transports most of its patients to The Memorial Hospital in Craig. The clinic's lab work is almost exclusively done at TMH's laboratory, Andrew said.
Told considers the arrangement to be a good neighbor service. It's not uncommon for Colorado to provide medical care for border towns in Wyoming as well as Kansas and Nebraska, he said.
"In my impression, the state of Colorado has been extremely important in providing medical care to the region rather than just the state," Told said.
The arrangement is common enough that his insurance still covers him for practicing in Baggs. Normally, insurance coverage stops at the state line.
That line doesn't mean much to the people who live near it.
"There's no issue just because there's a line," Harold said. "It's the valley."
Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.