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River Valley Family Health Center celebrates 5 years

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Olathe staff

A street party to celebrate River Valley Family Health Center's fifth anniversary as a rapidly growing successful health care organization, will be held Friday, June 23, from 4 to 7 p.m. in front of the Olathe clinic at 308 Main Street to thank the community for its support.

The entire community is welcome -- neighbors, friends, board members (past and present) and especially patients and those who are considering being patients, said Jeremy Carroll, CEO.

River Valley will commemorate the occasion with a barbecue featuring local and healthy food choices, (including gluten free and vegetarian) with the help of Valley Food Partnership and the Growing Healthy Communities Coalition. The coalition, along with River Valley's patient health navigators, will supply information booths and fun activities for children. Music will be provided by the popular Olathe band, "The Vigils," who will entertain with Spanish and English songs. Tours of the clinic will be available and since staff will host the event, they are accessible for questions. Carroll will recognize people who have been important to River Valley's history; in addition, there will be short speeches by area politicians who will honor River Valley for its assistance to the underserved in our communities.

One of the fastest growing employers in Montrose County, River Valley Family Health Center became a federally qualified health center (FQHC) in June 2012. It started with only eight employees five years ago and today has 53 staff members and is hiring more. FQHCs are community health centers that accept all patients, take Medicaid, Medicare, private insurance and the uninsured by offering a sliding fee scale program. The clinic serves migrant farm workers and stays open late one night a week during the summer to accommodate them. "River Valley's stated mission is to provide access to quality, integrated health care in a comprehensive and culturally respectful manner to individuals and families," said Carroll. "Integration" means having behavioral health therapists on site who are employed by the Center for Mental Health and eventually, dental services as well.

While River Valley's official FQHC status is five years old, its roots began 14 years ago. Montrose Memorial Hospital (MMH) opened the Olathe Medical Clinic in 1993 and 1994 at the same location River Valley is today before it was remodeled. MMH continued management oversight when it morphed into the Olathe Community Clinic (OCC) in 2008 and was housed behind the Olathe Elementary school. It operated as a school-based community health clinic at the time.

In 2010-2012, MMH, Montrose County School District and the Center for Mental Health submitted a grant to the Neighborhood Assistance Program. After receiving the federal award in June 2012, OCC transitioned from MMH's management to a stand-alone FQHC in November 2012. After much planning, in 2013 OCC started doing business as River Valley Family Health Center, which purchased and renovated the building at 308 Main Street, Olathe, the main home of River Valley today. The expansion went from 2,400 square feet to 6,000 square feet.

A second clinic soon followed. With increased growth coming from Montrose, RVFHC opened a satellite clinic at 100 Tessitore Court, Suite B, in 2015. Today 57 percent of its patients are from Montrose. The Montrose clinic will increase size from 2,000 square feet to a 13,000-square-foot facility after the former Montrose Athletic Club (MAC) is remodeled in 2017-2018 and replaces the Tessitore Court clinic.

"This will allow River Valley to add several new providers and greatly increase access to our quality care for the community," said Carroll. Both the Olathe and Montrose clinics see patients from all the surrounding communities.

Rapid growth from Delta and the North Fork has resulted in RVFHC making expansion plans for a Delta clinic to open later this summer in collaboration with the Center for Mental Health at CMH's facility, located at 107 11th Street in Delta. In addition to mental/behavioral health and primary care, dental services will be available to all patients. "There is a shortage of dentists in Delta County who currently take Medicaid, so we are excited to offer this new service to the community," Debby Harrison-Zarkis, COO, explained.

As a federally qualified health center, 51 percent or more of River Valley's board members or their families must be patients of the clinic. "This ensures an engaged board and we are grateful to those members who commit their time and intentions on behalf of River Valley," Carroll stated.

Half a million Coloradans get their primary care through Colorado's community health centers. Overall, they outperform national peers on 11 of 15 established quality metrics and do it at a lower cost. "River Valley rates number one in the state for three of the Uniform Data System's metrics and second in the state for four more metrics, under the guidance of Jeannie Muller, PA and chief medical officer," Carroll said.

"River Valley is excited to celebrate our five-year anniversary," said Harrison-Zarkis, "and we want the public to know that they are invited to celebrate with us, ask questions, see our progress and meet the staff. Plus, it's an opportunity for the Town of Olathe to showcase its beautiful and new 'pocket park' where the music and speakers will be located." The street will be closed for a block and a half from Hersum to S. Wortman from 3 to 8 p.m. to allow time to set up and break down.

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