Like any organization, Centura Health has many worthy causes knocking at its doors...heart research, cancer cures, diabetes care. Leaders of the not-for-profit, faith-based organization were torn about what to get behind and how they could truly make a difference.
To find an answer, they turned to the people of Colorado and asked them what they most needed in healthcare. The answer was simple and unequivocal: access. We need to be able to get healthcare services and we need to get them without going broke, hundreds of community members across the state said in a survey.
"By far, it was the number one issue," says Pam Nicholson, senior vice president of external affairs at Centura Health. "People need access to primary care. They need access to hospitals. People need to be able to enter the healthcare system and get coordinated care."
The survey solidified the organization's community relations focus. Over the past two years, Centura has been a quiet force behind several initiatives that will provide more care to more people beginning in January. These include:
- Legislation that goes into effect in January that provides mental health insurance coverage equal to that of physical health coverage in Colorado.
- The Blue Ribbon Commission for Health Care Reform, or the 2008 Commission, that will make recommendations to the legislature in January on healthcare reform to expand coverage to more people in Colorado.
- Development of a mental health crisis system in metro Denver, which Centura initiated by giving seed money for the research and planning.
In addition to these efforts, Centura has had a long-standing commitment to providing care to those who can't afford it. Centura's 12 hospitals give millions of dollars in uncompensated care every year. Centura also supports a number of non-profit programs that provide primary care access in the community. In South Denver, Centura hospitals provide support to Doctor's Care, a clinic that provides low-cost care to the uninsured. Centura hospitals also support the Adventist Community Services health outreach program, which sends a bus and medical workers into the community several times a week to provide care to the homeless.
All of those services, however, still make just a dent in the services that are needed. In any given month, nearly 800,000 people living in Colorado are uninsured, according to a study conducted by the Lewin Group for the 2008 Commission.
"People in Colorado see the system as broken," says Nicholson, who sits on the commission. "I truly believe we are going to see something soon that changes healthcare here for the better."