“For exemplary care, I nominate Karen Torres (and Molli Deines and Dr. Mizner). Throughout the COVID pandemic, Karen has been a leader in the Rifle Clinic. (Hey Karen, remember when you went on maternity leave in 2020 and thought that COVID would be over when you got back??) There is a patient in the Rifle clinic with a severely compromised immune system from myeloma and a recent transplant. When his wife called the clinic looking for help because she tested positive for COVID, Karen provided excellent patient education, including the instructions for the patient to monitor himself for symptoms and call the clinic if he developed any. Unfortunately, a few days later he developed symptoms, and because of Karen’s great clinical judgement, the patient was tested at the clinic immediately and able to receive treatment, which Karen (and Molli) also helped with by calling every hospital from Glenwood to Junction looking for the last dose of monoclonal antibodies. Finally, a shout out to Dr. Mizner who helped to order the treatment at Aspen Valley Hospital.” – Kyler Hijmans, FNP-BC
“This is a great illustration of how important our nursing team is at MFHC and how often they bridge gaps in care when others can’t. We are so grateful to work alongside of such a strong team.” – Anneliese Heckert, DO, Chief Medical Team Officer, Glenwood Springs Site Medical Director– Glenwood Springs
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. We at Mountain Family Health Centers are committed to reducing the stigma around mental health and treatment.
Community Health Centers and many other community partners play an important role in providing behavioral health care and helping patients find resources available in their community. Mountain Family Health Centers creates unique partnerships to address behavioral health issues in non-traditional ways. Many of our bi-cultural and bi-lingual team members are leading innovations in the way behavioral health disorders are identified and treated—through the integration of medical, dental, and behavioral health services. This integrated approach to care improves the overall value of healthcare and can lead to improvements in patient outcomes, quality of care and total costs.
In the words of Dr. Gary Schreiner, Mountain Family’s Behavioral Health Director,
“Recognizing the strain that COVID has had on all of us, we have created more immediate access to our behavioral health providers. We have made it our goal to have “warm handoffs” whenever possible so patients have access to behavioral health at any appointment, even if they are just here for a medical or dental check-up. We honor that behavioral health is health, period.”
Here are a few ways that YOU can participate and celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month:
Wear a green ribbon.
Donate to support behavioral health and be supportive of those with mental health concerns.
Share your mental health story. Speak up and share your story with friends, family or via social media.
Call Mountain Family at 970-945-2840 to schedule an appointment with a behavioral health provider (and also find a primary care provider or dentist).
Mountain Family has nine behavioral health providers and one psychiatric nurse practitioner. For our school-based health centers (SBHCs), we have a provider at our SBHC at Glenwood Springs High School and one at Avon Elementary. Our new therapists are Katie Forman, LCSW at the Glenwood Springs High School and at our Glenwood Springs clinic; Marissa Josub, LSW, now works at our Edwards clinic; and we just hired a new Licensed Professional Counselor who will start June 1 in Rifle.
“Many of you may not know Lauren, but she is a PA who has been working with us for almost a year PRN. Lauren has a job working Urgent Care in the Edwards area but enjoys working with our patients and is typically in the GWS clinic 1-2 times a month. Recently, Lauren had a great case which really shows her value as an acute care provider. One of my patients who I am just getting to know recently came in for a well visit to check vitamin levels given she has a history of gastric bypass. The patient presented to Lauren 1 week after an ER visit for epigastric pain, which can be common in patients after bypass. However, after discussion with the patient Lauren got more history than the ER had obtained, learned she was having symptoms concerning for a GI bleed, had a history of bleeding ulcers less than one year ago, and needed urgent evaluation. Lauren sent the patient directly to ER where she had extensive surgery later that day for volvulus, which is twisting of the stomach, and a partial resection of her small bowel. This was a really tricky presentation, and someone who had just been to ER, but Lauren did the right thing and trusted her gut to send the patient right back for more evaluation, which certainly saved her life. We are so grateful to have Lauren working with us. Great work!”
– Anneliese Heckert, DO, Co-Chief Medical Officer, Site Medical Director – Glenwood Springs
“I would like to nominate Darlene! There are many reasons for this but most importantly SHE GETS SH*T DONE! Darlene always comes in with a smile and maintains it even after we interrupt her repeatedly with the very non-intrusive question of “ Hey, do you have a minute?” which leads down mysterious rabbit holes at times. She answers all of your questions and always follows up with you to make sure your issue was addressed. At least she does with me but maybe she just likes me better j/k. Darlene has flourished in this position through her versatility and hard work. I know that Darlene is very deserving of the Mariposa Award and hope she is chosen.”
– Nominated by: Wendy Gil
“Darlene joined Mountain Family Health Centers 8 years ago as an MA in Rifle and I had the pleasure of working with her as her acting PM and Operations Manager. In January of this year, she joined the EHR team as Help Desk/EHR Support Specialist. Her transition to this new position showed MFHC a whole new set of hidden skill set. She jumped into her position with a great positive attitude and has helped on so many levels from tickets to projects. Most recently, she rolled out the new EKG laptops/interface to all of the clinics. She has a great customer service approach to IT and EHR Support which reflects through her interactions with staff and partners. Thank you, Darlene, and if you receive this award. You are amazing and you deserve the Mariposa award.”
We have heroes here at Mountain Family Health Centers. They are our family of dedicated staff who are the heartbeat of our organization. Our staff are committed to the health of all persons in our community.
In this new series, The Pulse, Stories from the Heart, we will share stories of our healthcare heroes and the patients they care for, to show how our organization is achieving our important mission.
At Mountain Family Health Centers, we improve the health of our community by providing equitable and affordable medical, behavioral, and dental healthcare for all. We firmly believe that healthcare is a human right. We work hard to ensure access and affordability to this care and medications for all our community’s residents, regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay.
Dr. Gail Mizner, MD, FACP, AAHIVM, is the embodiment of our mission. We could not be prouder to have her as a mentor and advisor to our staff. Dr. Mizner has been chosen by the State of Colorado to chair the Prescription Drug Affordability Board. This board is working to reduce the prices of prescription drugs in Colorado. She is the first example we wish to share of how our staff supports our goals, which in turn, supports you, your health, and our community.
In her Own Words “I love the mission of Mountain Family to provide high-quality care to people who might not have access to affordable care in any other setting. I love the fact that I can really practice at the top of my license at MFHC. I can take care of patients with very serious, life-impacting and, sometimes, life-threatening diseases and make sure they get the tests and treatment they need despite barriers such as lack of insurance and access to subspecialists.”
To schedule an appointment, please call 970-945-2840. (Please note that Dr. Mizner is not accepting new patients, but we have many other bi-lingual providers ready to care for you. Click here to choose a provider.) We look forward to hearing from you soon. Thank you for your support.
Dr. Mizner loves her role as the internal medicine consultant for MFHC, focusing on autoimmune diseases, endocrinology, and HIV care. Before returning home to Colorado in 2010, she practiced internal medicine, hospice, and HIV care for six years in Prescott, AZ. Before that, she practiced internal medicine in Northern Chile for seven years, running HIV programs in two hospitals, becoming fluent in Spanish along the way. She also spent two years in Ely, Nevada, as the only internist in an extremely rural and isolated setting. She is a former faculty member in internal medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, as well as former head of physician education for UCHSC’s AIDS Education and Training Center. Dr. Mizner earned her MD from the Yale University School of Medicine. When not in the clinic, she can be found with her family on local slopes and hiking trails. While Dr. Mizner is not accepting new patients at this time, there are many caring physicians available to see you. Call 970-945-2840 to schedule an appointment today.
When did you join Mountain Family?
I joined Mountain Family in September of 2010. My husband and I had decided to move to the area because we’re both [almost] native Coloradoans. We were living in Arizona and really missed Colorado. I wanted to be closer to my father, wanted our youngest son to be able to ski race, and we love the RFV have long roots here. When I came, I knew I didn’t want to go into private practice. I found MFHC and worked hard to convince them that they should hire in Internal Medicine Dr. because they had been traditionally Family Practice-based, and still are, but I did convince them and that has been very gratifying.
What attracts you most about Mountain Family?
I love the mission of Mountain Family to provide high-quality care to people who might not get it otherwise in any other setting. I love the fact that I can really practice at the top of my license at MFHC. I can take care of patients with very serious, significant diseases and make sure they get good care. Whereas, given both lack of insurance coverage and lack of sub-specialists in our area, they might not otherwise be able to get that at all. I really enjoy both the relationships with the patients and how grateful they usually are and the intellectual stimulation of constantly learning and constantly trying to figure out what is best for my patients. The other part I really enjoy is that MFHC has allowed me to develop a consultative role where the other providers send me questions through the patients’ charts and I can help them with Internal Medicine-related issues and to just help them work too, as they’re always striving to improve the quality of care for our patients.
I know you’ve practiced rural medicine and also in Northern Chile. Do you find something unique about Mountain Family that’s unique among other health centers or rural-based health providers?
I think the thing that stands out at this point is that we offer relatively comprehensive care in that we have both Behavioral Health and Dental Health integrated into our Medical Care. The other rural settings I’ve been in, my career started as a faculty member at the University of Colorado, but my husband is a mining engineer, so I ended up following him around the world for his work and fortunately a Physician, while sometimes difficult, you usually can find a way to work almost anywhere so I was in what was essentially a private practice, but only one of two practices in rural Nevada in Ely, Nevada and learned there the essential nature of making good contacts with sub-specialists and other physicians who could help me manage patients in this very rural setting, but didn’t have the kind of support in terms of Dental and Behavioral Health that Mountain Family provides. When we moved to Chile I couldn’t practice right away, I had to do what they call a revalidation of my medical degree which involved, of course, learning Spanish and then taking six medial exams in Spanish. So, it took me a little while to do that and then I was in the public health system which is relatively good, but has some major flaws as well in Chile, so patients were always having to wait a long time for appointments, and it was hard for them to get in and sometimes we could get medication for them and sometimes we couldn’t. Just to get an ultrasound, for example, in a timely fashion sometimes patients would have to be admitted. Certainly, MFHC has its challenges with patients having difficulty paying for radiological exams they need, for example, but we have quite a dedicated staff and a system for helping patients with those issues. We have staff that know where’s the cheapest place to get a radiological exam or what’s the best strategy if this patient is going to need a lot of hospital-based care to help them manage that. Another thing I appreciate is CAP fund we have which is an assistance program for patients where we can give them up to $500 a year to help them cover outside costs for medical things that they need.
What are some of the greatest joys and barriers to providing medical care in rural areas or in an area like ours?
I think the greatest joys are seeing patients get better, seeing people realize that they have a good source for treatment and that they are going to get taken care of and that they can improve their health. I’ve experienced that throughout my career with people with HIV and that’s occurred over and over again including in Chile where people come in and think that they’re going to die and then realize that there is a source of treatment and they’re going to be okay, and they can live a nearly normal life. So, that’s true for HIV, it’s true for many rheumatologic patients¬¬ that I treat who come in with terrible pain and other issues due to their autoimmune disease and had no idea that we can treat those diseases with very inexpensive meds or when we need to get expensive medication, we have ways of trying to obtain those for them. The gratitude and relief that I see on patients faces is one of the most rewarding things, I think. There are a lot of barriers. Hospital care is extraordinarily expensive and even though I know that once a patient has a big bill at a hospital, often they will receive a major discount, it’s very scary for patients and people who are uninsured to even think about taking on that kind of debt. That can be really frustrating to try to help them negotiate getting the care that they need.
What has been the greatest challenge for you at Mountain Family related to the COVID pandemic?
Most of my patients have been great about getting vaccinated. I’ve had probably less frustration than some of my colleagues, in terms of day after day of patients who are unwilling to get vaccinated and therefore putting themselves, their family, their community, their healthcare providers at risk, but I still feel that frustration to some extent. I think keeping all of us going and safe during this lengthy pandemic has been really the biggest challenge. I know our staff is, it’s hard not to feel burned out, I’ve felt it myself at times and yet reality is that the pandemic is still ongoing and that we need to be taking the precautions that we’re taking and encouraging patients to get vaccinated. Our staff has done an incredible job of vaccinating people and offering mass vaccination clinics. It’s taken its toll and people are tired and sometimes don’t have as much time to work on the medical issues that are so important for our patients, so we’re all stretched pretty thin and especially the people on the ground who are in the clinics every day.
It was an honor. I was quite surprised when I was asked to do it. This is new legislation that creates this Type I Board. It consists of five people who are charged with picking up to 12 prescription medications per year on which we place a cap on the cost. So that cap will affect not just patients, but pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, etc. There are a lot of stakeholders involved in this and, of course, the pharmaceutical companies are the ones who make the medications, and the Board because it’s brand new we’re creating the rule as we go along, of course following the legislation as it’s written, with a wonderful staff of people who do much of the work for us, but we’ve now met twice and we’re still in the process of rulemaking and choosing an advisory council and we’ve got a consultant group from Harvard that has helped Massachusetts go through this process as well. It’s quite an adventure for me and something that is relatively new to me, but I’m passionate about it because I see on a daily basis the barriers that patients face (both insured and uninsured) to be able to obtain much-needed, important, essential medications. I’m excited to be a part of this experiment of seeing what we can do to decrease medication costs in our state.
Although Aspen is a resort community and houses some of the wealthiest residents in the US, with our seasonal workforce and more data shows that we have 1,400 residents in Aspen who are living at the Federal poverty level and not using our healthcare services (in Basalt or Glenwood, for example). Do you have any recommendations as to how we connect to these residents?
One of the things that I think we need to do is make the employers aware of these folks more aware of the existence of Mountain Family. I’m pretty startled much of the time when people ask me where I work, wealthy or middle-class Aspen people and I tell them and they have never heard of Mountain Family Health Centers. If those people don’t know about it, people who have a language barrier and aren’t necessarily listening to the news, are also going to be unaware of it. I think that would be one approach, to make the entire population more generally aware of Mountain Family and what we do. The other thing and I know we have communication with the Community Health Center (CCHN?), but certainly encouraging them to refer patients who are appropriate to us would make a lot of sense. I think the other thing has to end up being word of mouth, so patients who live up in the higher part of our valley know that the Basalt clinic is there and be encouraged to make appointments.
Not only do you “give” to Mountain Family with your work here as a medical doctor, but you also give as a Founding Member to Mountain Family. As you know, Founding Members are a special group of benefactors who have made a three-year pledge to Mountain Family by making gifts each year to help us build our financial stability. As a Founding Member, do you have any words to share as to why you are motivated to make gifts to Mountain Family and our Health For All Fund?
I believe that everyone has the right to good healthcare and Mountain Family is probably the biggest organization in our valley working that is really working to provide anyone who needs it with good healthcare, so that is my passion. I also learned to speak Spanish fluently in Chile, so it’s important to me to use that gift that I received to help a population that is drastically underserved and I know what it’s like to live in a foreign country when even making a phone call seems like a difficult thing to do and so I have a lot of compassion for people that are in that situation and I want to help them.
Along that note, is there any message that you want to send to our Spanish-speaking community?
Tu salud es súper importante no solamente prevenir la enfermedad de COVID pero tratar y prevenir otras enfermedades antes que se empeoren mucho y en las clínicas de Mountain Family podemos ofrecerles buen diagnóstico y tratamiento con poco costo y espero que vayan a venir a vernos y ver lo que se puede hacer para mejorar su salud.
On March 31, we honor the birth and life of César Chávez, a civil rights and labor movement leader who fought for worker’s rights, fair wages, and medical coverage for all.
Chávez was born on March 31, 1927. He was a migrant farmworker from the age of 10. He became active with the Community Service Organization, which helped fight racial and economic discrimination against Chicano residents.
In the early 1960s, Chávez co-founded the National Farm Workers Association. He focused attention on the plight of migrant farm workers and gained support to have his organization be the first successful farm workers’ union in the United States. He used principles of non-violence, with strikes and boycotts. César Chávez remained president of United Farm Workers of America (AFL-CIO) until his death on April 23, 1993.
“Show me the suffering of the most miserable; thus I will know my people’s plight. Free me to pray for others, for you are present in every person. Help me take responsibility for my own life, so that I can be free at last. Grant me courage to serve my neighbor, for in service there is true life.”
As the son of a preacher man, I spent a lot of time in church and in prayer growing up in Colorado. However, I had not heard nor spoke the prayer of the farmworker’s struggle until I joined the Community Health Center movement and my friends at the Colorado Community Health Network introduced me to the life and work of César Chávez.
Chávez fought for values and principles that we hold dear in our Community Health Centers: service to others, opening our hearts to the suffering of the most vulnerable in our community, and taking responsibility for our own health and well-being.
The prayer of the farmworker’s struggle continues:
“Give me honesty and patience, so that I can work with other workers. Bring forth song and celebration, so that the Spirit will be alive among us. Let the Spirit flourish and grow, so that we will never tire of the struggle. Let us remember those who have died for justice, for they have given us life.”
At Mountain Family Health Centers, this prayer informs our mission of providing equitable and affordable care to all. It calls us towards our better selves: patient, honest, hard-working, celebratory, courageous, and honoring of those that have come before us. The prayer closes with these words, which vibrate with equal resonance from the 1960s to today:
“Help us love even those who hate us, so we can change the world.”
As our globe and communities begin to recover from a two-year-long pandemic, wrestle with the violence thrust upon the people of Ukraine, and struggle with the inflationary pressures in our local economies, we remain committed to loving, and caring for, our neighbors and community, so that we might do our part to change the world.
At Mountain Family Health Centers, we seek to control total costs of care for our patients. With the opening of our Pharmacy Program, we can now offer patients who lack health insurance life-saving medications at a very low cost. Thanks to a generous grant from The Colorado Health Foundation, Mountain Family opened its first pharmacy dispensary at our Edwards Integrated Health Center last October. Today, we also provide pharmacy services at our Glenwood Springs and Rifle health center hubs and will open one in Basalt this month.
Matt Percy, co-chief medical officer and site medical director at our Rifle Integrated Health Center tells why the implementation of our new Pharmacy Program is so critical.
“Thanks to all who have worked so hard over several years to make our Mountain Family Pharmacy Program a reality. I wanted to share the story of the first patient I was able to help with this program, so you are aware of the fruit of our labor.
I had a clinic slide patient see me yesterday who had been managing his diabetes with 70/30 insulin injections twice daily, costing him roughly $50 per month (via Walmart discount). I was able to change him to Lantus from Mountain Family’s pharmacy at a cost to him of just $25 for a three-month supply. Lantus is an easier and often safer insulin to use as it is longer acting, requiring just one injection per day, but also usually very expensive. To pay cash for this same supply of Lantus at a pharmacy would likely have cost him roughly $500 (or $350 with a GoodRx coupon). This patient is saving hundreds of dollars and now on an easier to use insulin thanks to the hard work of our pharmacy implementation team!”
According to Stacy Torres, pharmacy technician in our Glenwood Springs Integrated Health Center, “I like helping people who are uninsured, helping them build their lifestyle.” Stacy shared some of the top medications in demand:
For diabetes, insulin pens (Lantus or NovoLog) are $2.16 per box of five for someone participating in Mountain Family’s Sliding Fee Scale Program, which is available to those who have household incomes of ≤ 400% of the federal poverty level ($12,080/year for an individual or $21,906 for a household of three). Insulin from Lantus is $360 per box without insurance.
To prevent blood clots due to an irregular heartbeat, Xarelto can be used. For a box of 30 tablets, for the same uninsured patient making under $12,080/year, the cost would be $2.31, versus the retail price of $605.
For rheumatoid arthritis, 60 tablets of Plaquenil (200 mg) would cost $2.60 cents, while the retail price is $200.
In other pharmacy news, Gail Mizner, MD, FACP, AAHIVM, Mountain Family’s internal medicine specialist, has been chosen by the State of Colorado to chair the Prescription Drug Availability Board. This board is working to reduce the prices of prescription drugs in Colorado.
To make a gift to support our Health For All Fund and our Pharmacy Services, please donate here or contact Jan Jennings, Director of Development, at (970) 989-1134 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
When my seven-year-old daughter Sophia asked me how she could raise money for Mountain Family, I was touched. This is my job, and I never thought she would want to follow in my footsteps. I learned, however, that she really wanted to thank Xavier, one of our medical assistants, for doing such a good job when giving her a vaccine against COVID.
Like many of you as parents of young children who received the vaccine, I knew that getting a shot for her would be a challenge. In the Basalt exam room, she hid under the chair as my husband Mike and I tried to calm her down. We asked Xavier for a numbing spray, which he gently sprayed on her shoulder. As she was screaming in protest, she asked for another minute before the shot. Xavier calmly said, “Sure, you can have another minute. I’ll be back soon.” Looking at the painted mural of monkeys climbing a tree in the room, I think my daughter envisioned how she might escape by climbing that tree. Xavier returned, and while my husband and I had to hold her down, he swiftly gave her the vaccine shot.
After the shot, Sophia said, “That didn’t hurt too bad.”
The following day, Sophia asked me how she could raise money for Mountain Family to help Xavier (and the rest of our providers and healthcare staff) do their jobs helping people. She suggested selling lemonade. As we live at the end of a cul-de-sac on a road that does not have much traffic, I knew this would not work.
Then, she said, “I have an idea. I can sell Loki’s dogtoys that he doesn’t like.” Then she proceeded to make two drawings to hang in the back seat windows of my car. She drew an American flag and wrote: “I am Sophia. I am seling dogtoys. Cum to our home in Basalt.”
I drove with these signs for two days, and then Sophia asked if I could spread the word. I told her I would share it in my newsletter to inspire some gifts.
You don’t have to “sel dogtoys” to make a big difference for families and patients in need. We care for over 22,400 patients in Pitkin, Garfield, and Eagle counties, and we provided over 15,600 vaccinations so far against COVID (with over 2,500 for students in Roaring Fork Schools). Please make a gift to honor our healthcare heroes in our Health For All Fund. You, too, can help Xavier and the rest of our staff provide compassionate, high-quality care to thousands of patients, one patient and one kid at a time.
Since 1978, Mountain Family has had lasting belief: we believe healthcare is a human right. We improve the health of our community by providing equitable and affordable medical, behavioral, and dental healthcare for all.
You can join Mountain Family in securing this legacy of care. By remembering Mountain Family Health Centers with a gift in your will, trust, retirement plan, or life insurance policy, you can leave a legacy and:
Help perpetuate healthcare for all for future generations
As many of you may remember, Eagle Valley Behavioral Health (EVBH) worked with the Katz Amsterdam Foundation and other mountain resort communities in 2020 to conduct a behavioral health community survey. Eagle County had the highest response rate of the three participating communities and we were able to collect valuable data on the behavioral health status of our community in early 2020. (View 2020 Community Engagement & Behavioral Health Survey Report)
The goal is to administer this survey every two years to compare changes over time. As such, EVBH is launching this community survey again and we are asking for your support! As a key partner, we are asking that you please complete the survey and share the survey link with your employees, partner organizations, and community members to encourage them to participate as well.
The survey only takes 5-10 minutes to complete and responses are completely anonymous. The survey is available in English and Spanish.
The 2020 survey was completed just before COVID-19 hit, so the results of the 2022 survey will give us unique insights into the impact of the pandemic on our community’s behavioral health. The survey will close on April 3rd and data will be available in early May.