Please join me in celebrating Dr. Chris Tonozzi’s 22 years of providing high-quality, compassionate, primary care to our patients and communities. Dr. Tonozzi’s passion for providing care to the community he’s from is largely responsible for why Mountain Family exists in Western Colorado. Fresh out of medical school and residency, Chris started working to expand the community health center model to Western Colorado, which in the mid-1990s, had no community health center presence serving the Western part of our state. Chris began to ethically influence other community health center systems and leaders to expand care westward, and in 1998-1999, he was a leading part of the team that successfully launched Mountain Family Health Center’s first Western Slope community health center in Glenwood Springs.
The Glenwood Springs clinic started small, with several staff, and humble roots. Today, after more than two decades of care and leadership from Dr. Tonozzi, MFHC’s Glenwood Springs clinic has blossomed into MFHC’s largest integrated medical, behavioral, and dental healthcare home amongst MFHC’s now 10 clinic sites in Western Colorado. In the past 18 months, MFHC Glenwood Springs has provided more than 32,000 patient visits to more than 7,200 unique patients from our community.
Chris has helped mentor, train, and inspire the next generation of community health center providers and leaders, many of whom serve at Mountain Family or other community health centers statewide. Current MFHC co-Chief Medical Officer Dr. Matt Percy rotated with Dr. Tonozzi early in his medical training, and cites Chris as one of the main people who influenced him to join the Mountain Family care team. Chris inspired me as well, nine years ago, to move westward from Denver and to join the talented team of Mountain Family care givers and leaders to expand access to affordable care for all.
I have deep gratitude for all that Dr. Tonozzi has given to our patients and community. Some of my favorite memories include:
Leading MFHC’s early adoption of electronic health records to modernize antiquated paper patient charts and to improve the quality of care for patients. While it’s rare to hear any healthcare provider espouse love for an electronic health record (and every EHR is a continuous work in progress), Chris’s commitment to using technology to improve care is unparalleled. Chris served as MFHC’s Health Information Technology (HIT) Director for many years and helped position MFHC as a health technology leader.
Being MFHC’s champion for vasectomy and family planning services for patients. Chris has provided more than 2,300 vasectomies for patients over more than two decades, which, as Chris highlights, means that more than 2,300 men are free from worry, and more than 2,300 women are free from birth control. The marketing highlight of Chris’s vasectomy services, is undoubtedly, MFHC’s 2018 “Shoot But Don’t Score” vasectomy campaign (see below photo).
Providing high-quality, compassionate care to tens of thousands of patients over 22 years. Dr. Tonozzi is my primary care provider, and I can attest to his gentle bedside manner, commitment to co-authoring health improvement plans in partnership with patients, and his deft ability to communicate complex medical issues with a human, caring touch.
Starting this week, Chris will be completing his time as a primary care provider at Mountain Family and moving to PRN (Latin for “as needed”) status to provide vasectomy services for MFHC patients, occasional PRN coverage in MFHC clinics, and to focus on his vasectomy business, Pro Vasectomy. You’re also likely to run into him on the trail, on the river, or on a bike as he shifts to spend more time with his recently retired wife in the beautiful Colorado mountains.
Chris is not one to seek the limelight (he told MFHC staff “No Speeches!” at his celebratory lunch several weeks ago, see attached photo), so I’ll share on behalf of the entire Mountain Family, thank you Chris for who you are, the extraordinary care you have provided our community, and for the lives you have helped to live healthier.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and as a community healthcare provider, Mountain Family Health Center’s (MFHC) top priority is keeping patients, employees and visitors safe. While we strive to empower our staff to achieve this goal through local efforts, these are unprecedented times, which require us to implement a mandatory COVID vaccination policy unilaterally across the organization for the safety of our patients and staff.
In the last month, we have seen the cases of COVID-19 spike in our service areas, with the majority of those infections believed to be the Delta variant. Our regional hospitals are seeing dramatic increases in the numbers admitted for COVID-19. Of those in the hospital for COVID19, the vast majority are unvaccinated. Those who have been vaccinated and are in the hospital are less likely to be in the ICU.
The data is clear: vaccines work. They protect people from an ugly illness that has claimed more than 620,000 lives in the United States and infected more than 36.9 million people. The best way to stay safe from COVID-19 is to get vaccinated as soon as possible. An unvaccinated person is about 50 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 than a vaccinated person, and nearly 300 times more likely to die if infected.
MFHC is joining many health care organizations across the nation in requiring vaccines for all staff and providers. By October 1, 2021, all staff who work at any MFHC location are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or receive an approved medical or religious exemption as part of MFHC’s continued commitment to protect the safety and health of our patients, employees, visitors, and communities.
Across the nation, momentum for employee vaccination is growing. The U.S. military and some of our nation’s most well-known brands: United and Frontier airlines, Walmart, Google and Walgreens, to name a few, are requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for employees.
As of August 23, 2021, the Food and Drug Administration has issued full approval of the PfizerBioNTech COVID vaccine and is expected to fully approve other COVID-19 vaccines (Moderna, Johnson and Johnson) over the coming weeks and months ahead.
About 340 million vaccine doses have now been administered across the nation, and 3.8 billion doses have been provided to people around the world. Mountain Family Health Centers has provided more than 9,500 COVID vaccinations to the community in 2021. MFHC employees have the option of receiving the vaccine of their choice, which includes two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or one dose of the J&J vaccine. Those with a valid medical or sincerely-held religious reason to avoid vaccination may request an exemption to the mandate.
As leaders of MFHC, we trust the health science community who has closely studied these vaccines and is monitoring their effectiveness. This is not a political statement for us – it is one of health and safety. Requiring all staff to be vaccinated is simply the right thing to do because it will help protect patients, visitors, and everyone working in the health care system’s clinics and affiliated hospitals.
Staff who are unvaccinated at this time will be subject to the following requirements until their vaccine series of choice is completed and documented with HR: • Must wear an N95 mask and eye protection at all times when in clinic unless in a room alone with the door closed; • Must be tested twice a week for COVID-19.
It is rare that we the MFHC leadership and the Board of Directors make a unilateral decision like this; however, the data is clear – for the protection of our staff, your families, and our patients, this is a critical time and requires swift action. Sincerely,
As we head into the fall and see an uptick in cases of the Delta variant throughout our service area, getting vaccinated is more critical than ever. As of September 7, MFHC has provided 9,758 vaccines to our community members, but based on community wide data, we know that there are many left to be vaccinated. We are providing vaccinations at our Rifle, Glenwood Springs, Basalt and Edwards locations every day of operation and you can schedule an appointment just for your vaccine or you can receive it as part of your annual check-up. Your health is important to us, so we are making sure that as many barriers as possible are removed in order to ensure that you have access to this life saving vaccine.
For those who are already vaccinated and wondering about a booster there is still more to come. The CDC is currently only recommending boosters for those who are immunocompromised and right now these are the only patients we are providing booster shots to. Keep an eye on our website and Facebook page for updates on this as we will share whenever there are changes to the CDC recommendations that you should know about.
Connect for Health Colorado, the state’s official health insurance marketplace, has opened a new Uninsured Enrollment Period to help as many people as possible protect their health and safety. Anyone with special circumstances can enroll during this time, which means you must have a qualifying event to sign up. Open Enrollment for the general public will begin November 1, 2021. As a reminder, Connect for Health Colorado is the only place where Coloradans can apply for financial help to lower the cost of health insurance.
The position as the Site Medical Director for the School Based Health Centers is an exciting opportunity for me for a couple of reasons: First – I love a challenge and these six sites are all essentially start up clinics with their own personality. I can put my experience in building my own practice in Texas, serving as a preceptor for medical assistants and nurse practitioners, and working in so many different settings to use. Second – it is extremely rewarding to me to empower our most precious resource, our youth, and I am excited to begin this new adventure helping the children of the local schools to stay healthy and make good, educated choices regarding their spiritual, mental, and physical health.
Combining medical, dental, and behavioral health in cooperation with the school district staff really lets us use an interdisciplinary approach to caring for these students. Between the different practices we often identify students’ other needs whether it be psychological, medical, dental, and sometimes even financial. School Based Health Centers are innovative, and I hope once we develop the current sites into successful clinics, we can encourage other communities to adopt similar practices to invest in their youth.
Kim Maroney, MD
Dr. Kimberly Maroney is proud to join Mountain Family Health Center as their new Site Based Medical Director for the Roaring Fork School District’s School Based Health Clinics. Her family heard the mountains calling after more than 20 years on the South Texas coast where she had a thriving solo rural family medicine clinic, Live Oak Family Medicine, which succumbed to Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
She brings with her 20 + years of experience in many realms of family medicine, including Primary Care work where she saw patients of all ages, Hospitalist, and Emergency Room Work. She has held positions such as Aim Hospice Medical Director, Concentra Medical Director, Vice President of the Aransas County School Board, and member of the Methodist Healthcare Ministry. She is a FMSCA Department of Transportation Medical Examiner and an Aviation Medical Examiner for the FAA.
When Doctor Maroney describes how she likes to practice family medicine she would say “Treat others as you would like to be treated”. She strongly believes in the empowerment of our most precious resource, our youth, and is excited to begin this new adventure helping the children of the Roaring Fork School district stay healthy and make good, educated choices regarding their spiritual, mental, and physical health. On her days off you can find her exploring Colorado with her partner Adam or attending sporting events to watch her daughters, ages 14 and 17, compete. Her Hobbies include gardening, cooking, stained glass work and playing with her four dogs.
According to Roaring Fork School District Superintendent and Mountain Family Board Member Rob Stein: “Offering health services in school where our students spend most of their time is a convenient and safe means of removing barriers to access and ensuring our students receive the care they need to be healthy and successful in school and life.”
Mountain Family’s mission is to improve the health of our community by providing equitable and affordable medical, behavioral, and dental healthcare for all. With the opening of the Glenwood Springs school-based health center, Mountain Family now provides access to integrated care for 22,000 people across Garfield, Eagle, and Pitkin Counties.
Our Board Chair Monica Perez-Rhodes remarked, “In pursuit of this mission, Mountain Family has added six school-based centers in Avon, Basalt, Carbondale, and now, here at Glenwood Springs High School over the past several years. At this school-based health center, all students from all Roaring Fork Schools in Glenwood Springs can receive their medical, behavioral, and dental health care in one healthcare home, right here at school where they spend much of their time. Our staff helps families enroll in health insurance and financial assistance programs, and any student is eligible to receive care, regardless of their ability to pay.”
Paul Freeman, Principal of Glenwood Springs High School, added “Students who are in good health learn better and faster. The school-based medical center will help to ensure that all our students are healthy and ready to learn.”
Please enjoy some pictures of the Glenwood Springs school-based health center grand-opening event where we captured “Our Family Caring For Yours.” In addition, if you wish to support our school-based health centers and our Health For All Fund, please make a gift by donating here.
With gratitude for your partnership and support of Mountain Family and students in our communities.
She saw a complex care patient with me who was just released from the hospital where he was treated for multiple chronic conditions. He was found to have chronic bilateral foot wounds which were dressed at the hospital two days prior and was referred to the wound clinic but had yet to go. He was having difficulty changing the dressings so his feet were a mess and he was unable to weight bear dur to pain. He and his partner were homeless, living out of their car which he drove over Independence Pass to get here. He was brought back in a wheelchair. Last patient of the day, Kelly spent a great deal of time doing an excellent dressing change, to include padding so he could ambulate. She also gave them websites and phone numbers to call for housing for the night. Her incredible care after a busy day is a truly admirable. We are so fortunate to have Kelly on our team.
I want to nominate Marija Weeden for the Mariposa Award. She has really been the driving force behind so many new ventures at Mountain Family in the last year. I don’t know what we would have done without her leadership and support. I know for a fact that she is going to hate this recognition, I can see the look on her face in my head as I write this but she deserves this 10 times over. She works seamlessly with towards new goals and between departments and agencies to ensure at the end of the day, our team is supported and prepared so we can support our community. I am always grateful for her comradery and decisive decision making skills.. my team is grateful for her baking skills, and all of us should be grateful for her resiliency and dedication to making Mountain Family equitable and prosperous. In addition, Marija has been nominated a bunch and she does not like public recognition. However; I don’t care. I want to add to my nomination that she comes and babysits my clinics when I am in Edwards and has become just a familiar face that they are now comfortable roasting her as much as they do me. She walks the talk and it’s so awesome to see the staff get excited when she comes in.
by Amanda Canete
I have found Marija to be an excellent leader, manager, transparent and honest. Her commitment to MFHC and our patients is evident daily in her actions and follow through. It is refreshing to work with someone that places our mission and values above personal agendas and supports and recognizes her staff routinely without hesitation.
by Art Fernandez
Marija has been a rock during COVID and COVID vaccine clinics. She has been such a great volunteer on our Basalt Vaccine Clinic days, directing traffic, checking on patients and of course bringing the snacks 😊 Marija is always willing to help and answer any questions that we may have COVID related or not. I know speaking for the whole Basalt Clinic, Marija has been an amazing volunteer and is always making us smile and laugh. We appreciate everything she has done for us!
by Jocelyn Vega
Miss Marija Weeden is a leader that makes you feel valued, important and empowered. From the moment she arrived at MFHC, I knew she would be great for our organization and community. When thinking of what it means to be a Mariposa Award Recipient I truly think of her amazing characteristics. She is constantly tending to the “little” things that truly make a difference and searching for ways for everyone to improve. She doesn’t shy away from lending a hand and always keeps the environment fun and positive. I appreciate her leadership and above all else, her support for our staff and patients. Thank you Marija for all you do. You are deserving of this award.
Due to Melissa’s attention to detail and follow-through, she likely saved a baby’s life and saved a mom from a significant complication. Melissa was caring for a pregnant mom who was at 29 weeks and noted that the patient was developing swelling, and her blood pressure had increased. While it is much less common, pre-eclampsia can occur at such premature ages, and Melissa performed the tests which determined the patient did, in fact, have pre-eclampsia. Melissa then helped get the patient admitted to our hospital and then transferred to Denver, where it was soon discovered that the baby’s growth had been impaired as well. The patient then remained in Denver until her delivery.
Vaccination against COVID-19 remains the single best thing you can do to protect yourself and your family against the virus. As of July 1, Mountain Family has provided over 7,600 vaccine doses to community members. We recently switched to offering Pfizer vaccine as our primary vaccine available. This allows us to vaccinate anyone 12 and older and also be more nimble with vaccine stewardship due to smaller amount of doses per vial. This is helpful we move into a phase of the pandemic where vaccines are more integrated into general clinic flow, rather than given at mass vaccination events. We do still have a limited amount of Moderna shots available for second doses as well. Vaccines are available at all 4 hub sites (Edwards, Glenwood Springs, Basalt and Rifle) at least one day a week. If you or a family member who is 12 or older is still in need of a COVID vaccine, please call 970-945-2840 to schedule or ask about the vaccine at your next appointment.