By Beth Dodd:
The challenge of getting medical services in Cripple Creek and Victor has now been made a lot easier, at least for the kids. A new children’s health care clinic opened on October 4, 2012 right at the local Cresson Elementary School. The new clinic expands the school’s existing health service, which consisted of a physician’s assistant and a medical assistant working out of the school nurse’s office.
The new kid’s medical facility, the new and improved Cripple Creek-Victor Mountain Health Center (CCV MHC), is the dream of former CCV school nurse Martha Hubbard and current school nurse and CCV MHC Program Director, Laureen Murray. As far back as 2006, Teller County Build-A-Generation had recognized that transportation issues and the high cost of health care were creating access barriers to medical care for many local families. Hubbard and Murray began working to correct this problem by opening a school based health care center with the support of the Cripple Creek-Victor School District and Peak Vista Community Health Centers. Grants to pay for the initial operating costs came from the Colorado Trust and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
The original CCV Mountain Health Center opened in January 2009 in the Cresson Elementary School nurse’s office and was open only two days a week during the school year. The service has been well-used and appreciated. In 2011, they provided over 460 children with physical, dental, or mental health services. Sue Holmes, CC&V School Superintendent shared “I knew that beginning a school based health center would be a good thing for our students. However, I didn’t know how good it would be! Our students, who generally wouldn’t have sought health care due to very limited resources, are advocating for themselves, being seen and treated sooner rather than later or never, have increased attendance rates, have better behavior, and are performing better in the classroom! I couldn’t be happier with our results!” The health clinic now has much more elbow room in its new location than in the old nurse’s office, and a full-time schedule all year. It is housed in a new 2,500 square foot extension directly behind the school gymnasium on the B Street side of the campus, and includes a conference room, laboratory area, office space, a behavioral health room, and three exam rooms. The center is run by three staff members including a Physician Assistant, a Medical Assistant, and an Outreach and Enrollment Specialist.
The CCV MHC medical building has been in the works since 2008. Shortly before the original CCV Mountain Health Center opened, Rural Philanthropy Days, a fundraising conference where grantors and non-profits come together, was held in Cripple Creek. As a result, Peak Vista and the CCV School District received funding from The Colorado Health Foundation, Caring For Colorado, and the Boettcher Foundation. Colorado Rural Health Care, the Colorado Community Health Network, and the federal Health Resources and Services Administration also helped. Additional funding came from the Cripple Creek & Victor Mining Company, Cripple Creek Elk’s Lodge #316, the Pikes Peak Rotary Club, the City of Cripple Creek, Community of Caring in Cripple Creek, The Colorado Trust, The Colorado Health Foundation, and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. In total, roughly $650,000.00 was raised to fund the clinic.
The CCV MHC does not directly charge families for any of the services that they provide, and no co-pays are collected. However, they do bill Medicaid, CHP+, and many private insurances. If donations are made for services provided, the funds are used to pay for prescriptions for children who need them. Families without any health care insurance are able to have their children seen for no cost. They are referred to the Outreach and Enrollment Specialist to see if they qualify for any insurance options. All children enrolled in the Cripple Creek-Victor School District, and their siblings from birth to age 21, are eligible to sign up for the clinic. According to Cresson Elementary’s administrative assistant, Wanda Spoerl, “It has been a wonderful benefit to have the clinic here. If any of the children have medical issues, the clinic takes care of it right away without the parents having to take off work. It’s been a blessing.” Services offered by the clinic, which is being operated as a partnership between Peak Vista Community Health Centers and the Cripple Creek-Victor School District, include well-child services such as athletic physicals and vaccinations, in addition to acute care for sick children, mental and behavioral health services, and dental care. Dental services are provided by the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile, which visits eight times a year, or by referral to Peak Vista’s Dental Clinic in Divide. Children can be seen at the CCV MHC by appointment or as needed. For example, if a child becomes ill while at school, they can go right to the clinic, get diagnosed, and the parents will be contacted with recommendations for their care. Treatment or medications can then be given with parental consent. “I am honored to help the children of this community receive the health care that they deserve,” said Laureen Murray, who is the Program Director for the Cripple Creek-Victor Mountain Health Center. The Cripple Creek-Victor Mountain Health Center is open Monday through Thursday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. They are located on the B Street side of Cresson Elementary School at 412 North C Street in Cripple Creek. To enroll your student or make an appointment, you can call them at (719) 286-1100, or look for the health center link from the school website at www.ccvschools.org.