Monday, December 13, 2010

Colorado Springs opens medical clinic for developmentally disabled adults

From The Gazette in Colo.:

A medical clinic will open early next month to serve adults with developmental disabilities, a population that has numerous barriers to health care.

Peak Vista Community Health Centers is partnering with The Resource Exchange, HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Colorado Springs and Beth-El College of Nursing and Health Sciences on the 4,400-square-foot Developmental Disabilities Health Center, which will operate in an existing building in the central part of town.

The opening date has not been established, and a Peak Vista spokeswoman declined to provide the address until more details are in place.

“I’m just over the moon with this project,” said David Ervin, executive director of The Resource Exchange, a nonprofit that serves the developmentally disabled.

Ervin said people with developmental disabilities trying to get adequate medical care face a number of challenges, many of which were highlighted in a 2002 report from the surgeon general.

“Essentially, it says health care for people with developmental disabilities is awful — awful because of a lack of access, awful because Medicaid reimbursement is awful, and awful because there’s virtually no part of the health-care system that understands how to interact with people with developmental disabilities,” he said.

The new center will address those issues by integrating physical and behavioral health care, and helping doctors better understand their patients.

“These are people who may not be able to convey what their problem is; how does the doctor know what’s going on?” Ervin said.

The set-up also gives patients more face time with a doctor than they might get elsewhere, adds a wellness component tailored to the developmentally disabled and fosters greater coordination between primary and speciality providers.

“We’re hoping to provide people with ... a health-care experience that you or I would love to have,” Ervin said.

Having the service at Peak Vista also addresses problems with Medicaid.

“Peak Vista has a specific Medicaid application site which allows our medical patients to be processed in a timely manner, so it’s easier for us,” said Lynn Pelz of Peak Vista. “And we’re a federally qualified health center, so some of our reimbursements are better.”

Neither Pelz nor Ervin was able to provide the cost of the center, though Peak Vista and The Resource Exchange are funding it. The Resource Exchange recently lost almost $600,000 in state funding, threatening services to some of its clients, but Ervin said the agency’s board is committed to the center and will use money from cash reserves.

“People are clamoring for this,” Ervin said.

The center will open with a three-person staff, and officials hope to bring in more operating partners.