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Zion’s Garden helps fill the void

Amanda Holt MillerWestern Garfield County Staff
Post Independent Photo/Kara K. PearsonNurse practitioner Ann Cox, left, checks volunteer Margaret Brides heartbeat Saturday during a checkup at Zions Garden in Rifle. Zions Garden is a health facility for uninsured and underinsured people.
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RIFLE – A visit to Zion’s Garden Health and Wellness Center won’t cost more than $60 regardless of what, if any, insurance the patient has. In fact, a visit with one of the nurse practitioners at the clinic could cost as little as $10, depending on where the patient falls on the sliding income scale.Zion’s Garden is open Saturdays and Tuesdays. Nurse practitioners Ann Cox and Connie Berglund can do 85 percent of what a doctor can do, including writing prescriptions. But they’re not looking for a profit.”I am tired of seeing people not get health care,” said Cox, who has worked in medicine for almost 25 years. “Over and over again, people come in who don’t get preventative medicine because they can’t afford it, and by the time they come in, because they don’t have any money, they’re very, very sick.”That’s why Cox bought an old Victorian house on Fourth Street in Rifle. She got a good deal on equipment and furniture from the Grand River Hospital District’s old clinic. She couldn’t get grant money for the operation, so she and her husband, Gary, used some of their retirement fund.

“I just really believe in this,” Cox said.She’s modeled the clinic after the Marillac Clinic in Grand Junction, a successful nonprofit affordable health-care clinic, which is supported largely by St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction. Some people from the Marillac Clinic have agreed to help Cox write grant applications.To start with, everyone who works at Zion’s Garden is a volunteer, and there are only two exam rooms.Cox said she hopes the clinic will grow, as Marillac did. She wants to pay Berglund as soon as the clinic gets busy and there is some money coming in.”We figured we need to see six patients every time we’re open in order to make ends meet,” Cox said.

There have been about 15 patients in the two weeks – two Saturdays and one Tuesday – Zion’s Garden has been open.Cox said she hopes to do more than make ends meet, eventually. She wants lab equipment so she won’t have to send lab tests away, which costs patients. Cox is licensed to do most lab tests herself – she just needs the tools.”We’ll have to figure it out, see what happens,” Cox said. “I may end up buying a lot myself.”Cox expects about 70 percent of her patients to be uninsured or underinsured. She has applied to a lot of the preferred-provider lists for insurance companies so patients with insurance will be able to visit the clinic. Patients with high deductibles will receive receipts they can submit to their insurance companies so the visit will be applied toward their deductibles.”The people with insurance will help keep us afloat,” Cox said.



Cox said she has also been networking with pharmaceutical companies in order to help patients access affordable medication.Cox expects many patients will take advantage of regular treatment such as well-woman exams and physicals. She expects to offer sports physicals for students during a couple of days in the summer at a discounted rate, $15-$20 each.She also has a Spanish translator lined up for patients who call ahead of time and request one. “If people don’t speak English, they really need to bring an interpreter with them,” Cox said. “We can’t diagnose people when we can’t understand. We can’t be responsible for that.”To make an appointment, patients should call 625-ZION and leave a message. Someone will return the call and set up an appointment within 24 hours. Georgia Sutton and Margaret Bride volunteer as receptionists at the clinic.Zion’s Garden takes its name from Cox’s son, who died as a toddler.


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