Healthy Beginnings mulls merger |

Healthy Beginnings mulls merger

A decision on whether Garfield County should fold Healthy Beginnings into Mountain Family Health Center could come in early November.

That’s the word from Garfield County Commissioner Walt Stowe, after the Healthy Beginnings board met Friday to discuss Mountain Family’s offer to take over the county’s pre-natal health care program.

The Healthy Beginnings board is gathering more information, said Stowe, who sits on the board. “We’re looking at the pros and cons of going on our own.”

Central issues are whether Garfield County can hang on to state and local grants that help fund Healthy Beginnings, Stowe said, and whether Healthy Beginnings staff will work for Mountain Family.

Garfield County and the non-profit Healthy Beginnings are partners in providing free pre-natal care for low income women. While Healthy Beginnings raises funds, acquires grants and runs its service programs, Garfield County provides office space and support services such as accounting.

Mountain Family Health Center, also a non-profit, is part of the Boulder-based Columbine Mountain Family Health.

Mountain Family Health Center operates a clinic in Glenwood Springs, where it provides health care for low income families, who pay for services on a sliding scale.

At last Monday’s Garfield County Commissioner meeting, Adamson praised Healthy Beginnings for the work it has done over the past 11 years. But the group faces a shaky future with increased health care costs and the risk of costly lawsuits.

Taking over Healthy Beginnings would increase Mountain Family’s patient base, said the organization’s local director, Dave Adamson, and Mountain Family would like to use the office space provided by the county.

Stowe said Healthy Beginnings board members will tour Columbine Mountain Family Health facilities in other counties and research insurance issues expected to arise following a takeover.

Healthy Beginnings board member Claudia Beattie said research is still under way and no decisions have been made. “But from what I know, I believe this would be a good thing for everyone,” she said.

Beattie, a certified public accountant, has watched the non-profit struggle at times to stay afloat. It might be a pipe dream, she said, “but it would be nice not to have to struggle.”

Quality of care is also important for Healthy Beginnings board members.

“We have a dedicated staff,” Beattie said. “We don’t want to lose that part of it.”

Beattie said some board members worry that the service might lose its personal touch if it is taken over by the larger organization.

Mountain Family Health Center first approached Garfield County with the take over bid early this year, but the commissioners weren’t interested at the time.

Mountain Family’s follow-up since then has concerned some Healthy Beginning board members, Stowe said.

Mountain Family officials did not meet again with the Health Beginnings board until three days before making the takeover pitch to the county commissioners a week ago.

“I think they got the cart before the horse,” Stowe said.

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