Uninsured-workers’ needs prompt support for Peak Vista

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Peak Vista has expanded to serve more than 63,000 people in 19 clinics throughout El Paso and Teller counties. Ten years ago, they saw 37,000 patients.

Growing need: Peak Vista has expanded to serve more than 63,000 people in 19 clinics throughout El Paso and Teller counties. Ten years ago, they saw 37,000 patients.

GE Johnson construction company CEO Jim Johnson knows that many subcontractors working on his projects don’t offer health insurance to their employees.

Broadmoor hotel CEO Steve Bartolin recognizes the same issue — part-time, seasonal workers in the hospitality industry don’t get health insurance through work.

That’s why both companies give money to Peak Vista Community Health Centers, which treats many people who aren’t offered health insurance through work.

The initiative, part of a new emphasis on the Peak Vista Foundation, will raise money for a community project to fund the Lane Senior Health Center on the campus of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

“I see people all the time who are working — and working hard, but don’t have insurance,” Johnson said. “And in this economy, the construction industry’s been hit pretty hard. They might have run out of options.”

Despite recovery in many areas of the job market, unemployment in construction is hovering around 25 percent, he said. And that means many families are out of options for health care.

During the recession, Peak Vista’s clinics have seen an ever-increasing number of patients. The group has a six-month waiting list.

In recent years, Peak Vista has expanded to serve more than 63,000 people in 19 different clinics throughout El Paso and Teller counties. Ten years ago, they saw only 37,000 patients.

“This organization, what they do for people, is just amazing,” Johnson said. “It is definitely one of the bright spots in our community. And yet, so few people know what they actually do.”

Johnson provides insurance to his workers, but says he realizes that most in the construction industry — particularly smaller subcontractors — simply cannot afford to.

“That’s why we support Peak Vista, because they provide something that’s seriously needed in the community,” he said. “Without them, the emergency rooms would be full of people trying to get primary care.”

While the Broadmoor’s full time staff — around 1,600 people — have insurance, in the summer months, the hotel adds part-time or seasonal jobs and its employees swell to around 1,800.

“We’re pretty busy May through October, so we add staff,” Bartolin said. “They aren’t eligible for our insurance plan because they are temporary workers. We support Peak Vista because those workers can go there for primary care help. It’s one of the best organizations, in my view.”

The Broadmoor isn’t alone, lack of insurance for temporary workers is a hallmark of the resort industry, he said. And that makes what Peak Vista does even more important.

What makes Peak Vista stand out is the scope of its services, Bartolin said.

The organization serves as the primary care clinic for people with no insurance or who are eligible for Medicare or Medicaid. The group has pediatric clinics, dental clinics, senior clinics, mental health clinics.

They also provide some health care to the homeless population, and offer mobile immunization clinics in neighborhoods across the region.

They are located in Colorado Springs, Divide, Cripple Creek.

All that effort takes money. And money from the federal government is going to be scarce in future years as the nation seeks to cut the deficit. Even with federal health care reform laws on the books, some reimbursement levels could drop in the future.

So, four years ago, Peak Vista quietly started raising money. In 2010, they made the fund-raising efforts through the Peak Vista Foundation public. In that time, they’ve raised $9.5 million toward the costs of three community benefit projects.

But with upcoming budget cuts looming at the federal level, the work of the foundation is even more important, said B.J. Scott, longtime CEO of the organization, who is stepping down to take over the foundation’s fund-raising efforts.

“The foundation will be called upon to provide bridge funding to maintain our current services, while the patient service side of our organization continues to lead the way in providing a patient-centered health care home through integrated medical, dental and beahavioral health care,” said B.J. Scott, longtime CEO of the organization who is stepping down to lead the foundation’s fund-raising efforts.

The group not only raises money for specific projects, like the senior center, it also raises money for Peak Vista’s general fund through the annual Breakfast of Champions event.

Each year, a former Olympian speaks at the breakfast. This year, the event is slated for Nov. 3 at the Broadmoor.

Making do with grants, donations, federal support is one of things Peak Vista is good at, said Bartolin.

“I think a lot of government groups — state, local, federal — could take some lessons from the way they run things over there,” he said. “Nothing is wasted, and they use every resource they can.”

It’s not just about squeezing every dime for its benefit, Bartolin said. It’s also about quality and management.

“Peak Vista is known to provide very high quality care to people,” he said. “The administration runs things so well over there — they are a great example of good management, and what you can accomplish with it.”