This post was written by Gretchen Hammer, a previous member of our team.
The past two weeks I have been immersed in reading about the history of CCMU. Our organization started 15 years ago this month as a vision among a broad group of people who believed (according to our first conference program) we needed to start a conversation about “dealing with the problems and solutions to providing care to Colorado’s medically indigent population.”
What has struck me most as I have pored over these boxes of rich history is the consistency in the approach to our work over the years. The program from that very first conference, our launching off point in March 1997, included sessions that spanned the strategies we thought necessary to find the solutions--having sound data, educating and engaging broad stakeholders, involving community, changing delivery systems, and impacting policy. These strategies remain at the heart of CCMU’s work today.
Many of the people are the same, too! One of our current board members led a breakout session at our first conference. Members of the 1997 conference planning committee are still members of our coalition. The thousands (and I mean thousands) of emails and meeting minutes I have read have reminded me of the deep commitment and unwavering dedication of many of my current colleagues who were involved in the early work of CCMU. I can’t wait to see all these incredible health care leaders in one place during our 15 Year Celebration Party in May. More details on that coming soon!
Unfortunately what is also the same is that we have too many people in our state who face real and significant barriers to getting the care they need to lead healthy and fulfilling lives. In our early days, our definition of medically underserved was, “any person who cannot access medical, dental, or mental health services in sufficient quantity or quality to improve their health because of socioeconomic, language, cultural, geographic or other barriers.” This definition holds true for us still today, especially as we continue to better understand the intersections between health, income, education, race and community.
We remain optimistic though that the strategies we are using are right and that with our current team of incredible staff and Board, we will continue to find ways to improve care for the underserved. In our 2003 Annual Report, Dr. VanderArk started his letter saying, “Alice in Wonderland says, ‘There is no use in trying...one cannot believe in impossible things.’ She is wrong. CCMU is made up of people who believe in and accomplish impossible things.” He was right and I am so proud to be part of this incredible history.