Clinic creates comprehensive care for diabetics
December 12, 2005
FRISCO – If it weren’t for Summit Community Care Clinic, Isidro Gomez wouldn’t be able to manage his diabetes well.Doctors in Mexico diagnosed Gomez with type I, or insulin dependent, diabetes when he was 16. Gomez works at a fast food restaurant, where he doesn’t receive health insurance. Test strips to check his blood sugar cost $1 each, and he needs to use three or four a day. When he can’t get test strips from the clinic, he only checks his blood sugar once a day.”If it weren’t for this clinic, I don’t know what I would do,” he said. “I don’t know any other place to go for help. If I went to the emergency room, it might cost $1,000, and I can’t afford it. Also, it is very important for me to keep healthy so I can go to work to support my (wife and 18-month-old son).”
The Care Clinic serves underinsured and uninsured people who live and work in Summit County. The clinic received $4,500 from the Holiday Fund last year and used the money to help patients purchase medication. This year, it plans to use the money to create a more comprehensive plan for diabetics to improve their overall care. Diabetes is the ninth leading cause of death in Colorado. Latinos have the highest rates of diabetes (37.5 per 100,000), as well as chronic liver disease, cervical cancer and injuries, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.About 9 percent of the patients at the clinic have diabetes, which is up from 3 percent in 2002, said Dr. Karen Wyatt, medical director. This year, the Rotary Club donated money for lab equipment to test for kidney damage and to measure glucose levels throughout a three-month period. Now the clinic just needs to find a way to pay for test strips, the results of which allow doctors to adjust medication properly. Finding and treating the disease can prevent further complications, such as kidney failure, circulatory problems and heart disease.”It’s critical for people to get preventative care and see doctors early in the disease process so they don’t have to go to the emergency room,” Crook said, adding that people who don’t pay emergency room bills burden taxpayers and the health care system.
From January through September, the clinic has treated 1,061 patients, Wyatt said. It collaborates with the school clinics, which refer kids – and often their families – to the Summit Community Care Clinic.Last year, it expanded its hours from two evenings a week to three days (Monday and Wednesday and Friday). It is staffed by a grant-funded doctor, a physician’s assistant, a staff member and a number of volunteer physicians, interpreters, nurses and other aides. Crook said they plan to expand their hours again once the clinic moves into the new medical building next to St. Anthony’s Summit Medical Center, scheduled to open in September. She’s also hoping money from tobacco taxes will fund costs of staying open longer, but she won’t know if the clinic will receive the grant until January.In the last year or so, clinic employees have seen more children who need medication and more patients using the clinic as their primary care facility to treat chronic problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure, Crook said.The clinic began 12 years ago and receives other assistance from grants, The Summit Foundation, the government and the Summit Medical Center. It charges patients fees based on a sliding scale.
“They always spend time with you, and they call you when they say they’re going to call,” said Carrie Smith, who the care clinic helped with her diabetes last year. “They answer all of your questions. Nothing’s ever rushed. It helps when someone makes you feel good instead of making you feel like a loser. They take care of you like you’re a full-paying patient.””I’m just really thankful to the community for having the clinic,” Crook said. “It’s unusual for a community this size to be able to sustain a community clinic. We do it because we have such good support from the physicians, the government and the people. It’s really a testament to the community spirit.”Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13624, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.