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CU Partners With Salud to Open Clinic in Aurora

Aurora Community Health Commons to improve primary care access for residents in surrounding area

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The University of Colorado School of Medicine joined Salud Family Health Centers on Friday, February 28, to celebrate the grand opening of a new federally qualified health center in Aurora that will serve community residents who depend on Medicaid for health insurance.

The clinic at 562 Sable Boulevard, Suite 100, is the initial step in a larger partnership between CU and Salud to bring options for healthier living to Aurora residents. Salud has purchased 27 acres on the southeast corner of Airport Boulevard and East Colfax Avenue, where Salud plans to develop the Aurora Community Health Commons.

John Santistevan, president and CEO of Salud, said the long-term goal is to provide a site for Aurora residents that promotes healthy living in addition to providing medical care.

“We’re looking at this as a bigger project than what’s in these four walls,” Santistevan said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the clinic on Sable. “In three years, we’re going to have a commons campus that will be addressing a lot of the social determinants of health.”

‘CU and Salud will have significant impact on improving access to Aurora families.’ – Sen. Rhonda Fields

“Our mission is to provide a quality integrated health care home to the communities we serve,” Santistevan said. “And believe me, at Salud, we are very proud of that mission and we live it.”

Salud is a private nonprofit that was established 50 years ago in Fort Lupton and now has 13 clinics, 11 school sites, and a mobile unit in Colorado to provide medical, dental, pharmacy, and behavioral health services. Last year, Salud served 82,000 patients who made 360,000 visits to Salud clinics.

Years in the making

The opening of a clinic in Aurora is the result of a partnership with the CU School of Medicine that has been years in the making.

“The vision was really originated by Dean John Reilly. We would not be here in Aurora if the CU School of Medicine did not invite us and it really was the Dean’s vision to do this,” Santistevan said. “We’ve been working on this project for two years. It’s been a lot of planning and a lot of work, and on January 13 we saw our first patient here.”

John Reilly, Jr., MD, dean of the CU School of Medicine, said the partnership with Salud on the Aurora clinic and commons is a natural extension of previous work the School and Salud have done together. In Fort Morgan, for example, there is a family medicine residency program at the Salud clinic there. Some CU medical students also complete clinical training rotations at Salud clinics.

The Aurora project aims to address a significant need for improve access to primary care in the neighborhoods surrounding the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. An analysis of three ZIP codes - 80010, 80011, and 80012 - found that an estimated 48,000 people did not have primary care providers.

Expanding primary care

“Even though Medicaid expansion has provided them with insurance coverage, it does not necessarily provide them good access to primary care,” said Reilly. “So it’s a real privilege for us to take a leap with a partner.”

CU faculty members already provide care to patients who depend on Medicaid. Reilly said the School’s medical practice took care of about 160,000 patients with Medicaid, with children accounting for about 100,000 of them.

“We think we can accomplish a few things, improve access to primary care for the population right around our campus, our neighbors and friends. We’re going to co-locate specialty care right on [Aurora Community Health Commons]. ... It’s going to be the stop to get their medical needs met. And we’re really excited about the possibility to innovate about what a health campus looks like.”

Anne Fuhlbrigge, MD, senior associate dean for clinical affairs, said the partnership offers a new opportunity to expand the interdisciplinary team-based training provided by the CU health professional programs.

Health, wellness, even job training

At the commons location, Salud plans provide housing, an urban farm and healthy food options, exercise equipment, job training, and many other services.

“It’s the entirety of the Anschutz Medical Campus that is committed to this endeavor,” she said. “We have representatives from all the different disciplines and all the different schools that want to be part of this. Even off campus groups are interested. The College of Architecture and Planning, which is on the downtown CU campus, wants to be involved in helping to make the commons a focus of health, not just health care.”

In addition to providing multidisciplinary care, the commons will provide an opportunity for training future providers to work together.

“We want to think about the interdisciplinary, inter-professional nature of the care we provide on that campus and how we teach the next generation of providers who come to that campus to learn how to provide care in a true team-based approach.”

The grand opening of the clinic on Sable attracted more than 60 community leaders and politicians who toured the clinic, which has 12 exam rooms and a dental operatory. Before cutting the ribbon to celebrate the clinic’s opening, Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman read a proclamation from the city. State Sen. Rhonda Fields, who represents the district that includes the clinic, read an excerpt from a letter from Senate Majority Leader Leroy Garcia and Governor Jared Polis.

In her own comments, Fields said: "Today is a great day for patients, for families, and for community health providers across Aurora. CU and Salud will have significant impact on improving access to Aurora families.”

Guest contributor: Mark Couch, CU School of Medicine.