Susan Birch, chief executive officer of the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, and Gisela Garrison, director of the Northwest Colorado Community Health Center, accept the Large Business of the Year award at the State of the County event Friday night at the Holiday Inn. The Health Center provides health care services to Moffat County residents who are low-income or underinsured.

Photo by Shawn McHugh

Susan Birch, chief executive officer of the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, and Gisela Garrison, director of the Northwest Colorado Community Health Center, accept the Large Business of the Year award at the State of the County event Friday night at the Holiday Inn. The Health Center provides health care services to Moffat County residents who are low-income or underinsured.

Health center awarded Large Business of the Year

Business honored at State of the County event

Despite winning the Craig Chamber of Commerce’s large business of the year award, Gisela Garrison doesn’t see the Northwest Colorado Com­munity Health Center as a typical business.

“I have never seen the health center as a business,” said Garrison, the health center’s director. “Rather, I’m in the business of serving the residents of this community.”

Garrison and Susan Birch, chief executive officer of the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, received the award on behalf of the health center Friday at the State of the County event.

The health center, at 745 Russell St., provides health care services to low-income or underinsured Moffat County residents. The center secures its funding from state and federal grants to ease various health care costs such as prescriptions and immunizations.

“These services are crucial,” Garrison said. “There is such a lack of affordable health care in rural communities such as the Yampa Valley.”

Garrison said the services the health center provides especially are important given the attitude some residents of rural areas have.

“The whole mindset, especially with ranchers and coal miners, is that you don’t need medical care unless you are dying, and then it comes

too late,” she said. “There is data that has shown there are a lot of health disparities in rural areas.”

In her acceptance speech Friday, Birch was grateful for “being able to secure federal resources to improve the lives of out residents and our community.”

“It’s remarkable to think that we have served almost 2,000 residents that are really vulnerable and need our assistance,” she said. “These are very low income, struggling people.

“They are our working friends and neighbors.”

In 2009, the health center was able to provide $100,000 in discounted health care services to local residents. The center also helped 400 residents enroll in Medicaid.

“It has really been an incredible effort in this community to reach out and take care of our most fragile,” Birch said.

The health center soon will start an interior remodel and renovation to add new examination tables in March.

The $300,000 grant needed for the remodel was secured from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

With the expansion, Birch hopes to expand services to about 5,000 residents and create 15 jobs.

“This award is such a tribute to the caring, compassionate, hard-working staff, and I think it will help Moffat County stabilize health care and improve quality of life,” she said.

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