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VNA reaches out to poor

Number of Americans without health insurance skyrocketing

Autumn Phillips

The staff of the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, watched the numbers of Americans without health insurance rise from 40 million last year to 44 million in 2004.

“We also saw a mushrooming number of people who have insurance but can’t afford to meet their rising co-pays,” VNA Executive Director Sue Birch said.

Since 1964, it has been the mission of VNA to bridge the growing gap between doctors and the poor.

“We serve vulnerable populations,” Birch said. “That means people who are struggling, working, low-income families. We serve children, young adults who need reproductive health care and seniors.”

Services range from prenatal care for women to homehealth care for the elderly.

All medical care is given on a sliding scale, according to the patient’s ability to pay.

“People who come in and show us proof of income can be given free or reduced services,” Birch said. “No one is turned away for inability to pay.”

VNA provides a variety of women’s health services including pap smears, testing for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, birth control and pregnancy tests.

VNA administers the Women, Infants and Children Nutrition Program and the school health program, sending nurses into schools in the Steamboat Springs School District.

“Our goal is the promotion of healthy children within stable and nurturing families,” VNA’s service pamphlet said.

The agency also is concerned with adult health into old age.

Each November, VNA launches a massive campaign for flu shots. The clinic, in Suite 101 of the Yampa Valley Medical Center, provides not only flu shots, but also other adult immunizations.

For seniors, VNA sends nurses to four sites around Routt County for Senior Wellness Clinics. A nurse is available to take blood pressure and give advice.

For seniors who cannot leave their homes, VNA offers home health care. Nurses will come to an individual’s home under doctor’s orders. Home health care specialists help patients recover from surgery and chronic illness, and offer physical, occupational and speech therapy. Treatment is individualized and can be paid for with insurance, Medicare and Medicaid.

Respite care, including light housekeeping, also is provided without a doctor’s order on a private pay basis.

VNA recently entered a partnership with The Haven, an assisted living facility in Hayden.

“We are making a huge commitment to seniors in our community by making sure they have more living options,” Birch said.

VNA also received a grant this year from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid to help seniors participate in and understand the new prescription drug benefits available to them.

VNA also is the home of Hospice for Routt County. Hospice caregivers care for the terminally ill in their homes, enabling them to approach the end of life with dignity and comfort. Caregivers are trained to help patients live without fear of losing control or dying alone in pain.

Care can include regular or emergency nurse visits, assistance with household maintenance and bereavement counseling for the family.

There are many volunteer opportunities at VNA including hospice, general office work at the clinic and help with the flu shot campaign.

All services can be provided with a Spanish translator.

To volunteer or for more information, call 879-1632 in Steamboat or 824-8233 in Craig.

— To reach Autumn Phillips call 871-4210

or e-mail aphillips@steamboatpilot.com


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