This is a guest post by Sharon Adams, executive director of ClinicNET and a CCMU board member. She works to ensure that Community-Funded Safety Net Clinics (CSNCs) and Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) throughout Colorado are acknowledged for their provision of high quality, affordable care to low income, uninsured, and underinsured Coloradans.
Last week I found myself standing in the waiting room of Inner City Health Center, surrounded by a crowd of advocates, health care providers, state employees, and other colleagues, listening to Kraig Burleson, the clinic’s executive director, and Dr. Doug Fairbairn, medical director, explain why community safety net clinics are so special. Each of them said that these clinics aren’t just in the community, they are the community—they look like the community, they feel like the community, and they care deeply about their community. Never have truer words been spoken.
As we wrap up the 5th annual Safety Net Clinic Week 2014, it’s the perfect opportunity to recognize and celebrate the work of these clinics. Every year, ClinicNET and the Colorado Rural Health Center sponsor this awareness week (this year with support from COPIC and Kaiser Permanente) and it serves to educate the public, policymakers, and community leaders about Community Safety Net Clinics (CSNCs) and Rural Health Clinics (RHCs). Colorado’s CSNCs and RHCs include 89 clinics located in 43 counties statewide. Annually, they manage an estimated 878,000 visits from approximately 332,000 Coloradans, many in underserved and rural parts of our state.
I’m always inspired by the care, commitment, and compassion safety net clinics demonstrate with their patients, families, and for their entire community. The clinics serve vulnerable, at-risk Coloradans who are uninsured, underinsured, insured through public insurance like Medicare or Medicaid, or insured through subsidized health plans purchased through Connect for Health Colorado.
Safety net clinics are not deterred by challenging issues—funding, accessing specialty care, workforce recruitment and retention, the complexity of health care reform implementation—nothing is enough of an obstacle to keep safety net clinics from providing access to quality health care services regardless of a patient’s coverage or financial limitations. I am inspired over and over again by the provision of culturally competent, patient- and family-centered care that enables the best health outcomes possible for their patients.
It is inspiring, too, that so many people participated in Safety Net Clinic Week 2014. We had a record number of clinics host elected officials and candidates for office, offering Colorado leaders an opportunity to learn about our diverse health care safety net and the patients and communities they serve. There is so much change taking place in health care in Colorado, and much still to be learned about how health care reform will ultimately impact the communities and patients these clinics serve. I am confident that with so many leaders taking an invested interest in learning about the health care safety net, we are getting closer to achieving our vision that Colorado’s vulnerable populations participate in and are well-served by a health care system that promotes healthy individuals living in healthy communities.
For me, regardless of who you are in this system of care, you are an inspiration…an inspiration as a community clinic, a school-based health clinic, a residency clinic, a free and charitable clinic, a private practice, or a Rural Health Clinic. For those of you who may not often characterize your work as inspirational, I want you to know that your work enables what matters. Funding, payment reform, delivery system redesign, and effective public policies, are all essential in creating a health care system that works for everyone.
Thank you to everyone who supported and participated in Safety Net Clinic Week 2014, and for being an inspiration to me personally and to ClinicNET in our role as a centralized voice for the safety net. I’m already looking forward to next year!
Check out ClinicNET’s Facebook page for event photos.