Community Health Center open house today |

Community Health Center open house today

Collin Smith

Medical care is a real need, Gisela Garrison said.

As obvious as that may sound, some either choose not to seek care or are kept from receiving it because of the cost. This can lead to seemingly innocuous issues, such as a cold, turning into more serious problems, such as pneumonia.

It also can lead people to live years with serious and untreated illnesses, Garrison said.

The Northwest Colorado Community Health Center, housed within the Visiting Nurse Association at 745 Russell St., is here to serve those uninsured and underinsured residents who heretofore thought they could not afford health care, Garrison said.

The facility plans to hold an open house from 4 to 6 p.m. today so the community can tour inside and meet physicians involved, as well as meet Garrison, health center director.

“We want people in the community to really become comfortable with our providers,” said Suzi Mariano, VNA public information coordinator. “They can ask any of them any question they want and see what we have to offer.”

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The clinic is designed to offer affordable general practitioner medicine, such as would be found in any doctor’s office, as well as women’s wellness care, Garrison said. Specialized care, such as surgery, is not offered.

All patients are admitted, regardless of ability to pay, she added. However, it’s not a free clinic. Charges are based on a sliding scale dependent on a person’s income.

The Health Center is tailored for those who earn 200 percent of the federal poverty guideline or lower, Garrison said. The federal government defines poverty as $21,850 a year for a family of four, or less than $10,000 for a single person.

Garrison said The Memorial Hospital has been “a great help” and that Health Center patients can get lab work – such as blood tests and X-rays – for the same rates.

Affordable health care is a large issue in Moffat County, Garrison said, especially for the 29 percent of local residents who earn 200 percent or less of the federal poverty guideline, according to 2005 census data.

That only includes documented residents, she added.

“We have already experienced that people come to us are very, very sick because they have basically not gotten any medical care for the past 15 to 20 years,” Garrison said. “Especially now, with the scarcity of family care in this county. We’ve had patients come in with undiagnosed diabetes or cardiovascular disease.”

She said she hopes people will come out today.

“Our biggest emphasis is to become a medical home for the people who haven’t gotten care,” Garrison said. “To get them preventative care (so their condition doesn’t get worse) and preventative education.”