Open for Business: Northwest Colorado Health committed to affordable care in Moffat, Routt counties
As one of the first nonprofit medical organizations in the country to address health care accessibility in rural America, Northwest Colorado Health has been serving Moffat and Routt counties for over 50 years.
Starting with a small budget of $3,000 in 1964, Northwest Colorado Health was originally founded as the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association with a primary focus of providing healthcare services to people in their own homes. Overtime, the organization gradually began expanding their services, and in 2016, they rebranded to Northwest Colorado Health to more accurately reflect the range of services and programs they offer.
“One of our core values is that everyone has a right to health care, which means we provide services regardless of a person’s ability to pay,” said Stephanie Einfeld, the CEO for Northwest Colorado Health.
The early days of the organization were marked by concerned citizens.
“Our organization started out of a community-led voice to provide more accessible health services in rural Colorado, and it continues to work towards that goal,” Einfeld said.
Northwest Colorado Health began expanding services offered in 1995, when the organization merged with the Hospice of Steamboat Springs to offer hospice care. 10 years later, they acquired the Haven Assisted Living, and after two years of construction, opened The Haven Community Center in 2007.
“Overall, the theme is that we’re going to evolve to meet the needs of the community,” Einfeld said.
In 2008, Northwest Colorado Health opened their first Community Health Center in Moffat County, and 5 years after that, they opened another Community Health Center in Routt County. Community Health Centers are established in areas that are identified by the federal government as having large numbers of residents who have inadequate access to basic health care, either because there are not enough services or because residents cannot afford the services that already exist.
“The whole reason our organization exists is to meet the needs of the community,” Einfeld said.
In 2016, the organization made a leap into another county by providing home health, hospice, and palliative care services in Grand County. This was then followed by the opening of a dental clinic in Moffat County in 2017, and then expanding those same services into Routt County.
Einfeld noted that according to surveys and conducted research, almost half of Moffat County residents do not seek dental services, and Northwest Colorado Health is trying to better understand the barriers there are for residents, and how to bridge that gap.
“Access to health coverage and insurance is a big obstacle for many people in Moffat County,” Einfeld said.
One of the biggest issues in Moffat County identified by Einfeld is behavioral health, and adequate access to behavioral health services.
“We have a low ratio of behavioral health service providers to people who need access to it,” she said.
To help address the issue, Northwest Colorado Health started a telepsychiatry program in 2018 that allows patients to meet with a psychologist over a virtual platform, allowing for more options when it comes to behavioral health services.
As she embarks on her sixth year at Northwest Colorado Health, Einfeld said that the most rewarding part of working for the organization is all of the “heart-work” that goes into it.
“I get to work along this amazing team of caretakers and providers whose hearts are truly in the game,” she said.