Updated: February 20, 2014 at 6:37 am
The latest sign of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs' expansion is aimed as much at attracting new students as it is in treating baby boomers.
The Lane Center for Academic Health Sciences formally opened its doors Wednesday, signaling a new push to provide all-encompassing health care for the region's fastest-growing demographic: senior citizens.
Several clinics - almost all catering to seniors - have made the 54,000-square-foot facility their new home. And over the next few years, the roughly $18-million building itself could become a pillar for expanding medical training opportunities in the Pikes Peak region, university officials say.
"It's an opportunity for students to learn what is the future," said UCCS Chancellor Pamela Shockley-Zalabak. "Because integrated care, most people believe, is the future of health care."
The center includes a military veterans clinic, and one of Peak Vista Community Health Centers' two senior clinics in Colorado Springs relocated to the facility. The move replaced the nonprofit's 4,910 square-foot senior clinic near Union Boulevard and Vickers Drive with a 6,276 square-foot space - one capable of treating up to 6,000 patients. The previous facility treated less than 2,000 people.
When taken as a whole, the Lane Center is a convergence of medical care, training and research catering toward the region's aging population, clinicians say.
Imagine a person walking into Peak Vista's clinic complaining of back pain. Behavioral health specialists have been tasked with sitting in on doctors' appointments, helping to diagnose and treat any factors - such as depression - that may lead to the sedentary lifestyle causing that back pain.
Then, patients may be referred from Peak Vista's second-floor clinic to the Center for Active Living on the first floor for advice on some exercises keep that pain from reappearing. Across the hall, more clinicians are available to offer advice on eating better at the Peak Nutrition Clinic.
On the third floor, psychologists with the CU Aging Center are available for behavioral health needs, as are clinicians with UCCS' Gerontology Center.
Having every clinic in the same building should help cut down on transportation issues that often limit seniors' ability to seek care, and clinicians say it will also help doctors communicate better between each other.
"The whole thinking in this building is we understand health differently than just going to sit down with a primary care physician and usually getting a prescription," said Michael Kenny, the CU Aging Center's director. "We have to think about these other aspects of the person's life."
Each year, more than 100 UCCS students are expected to serve clinical rotations somewhere in the building, said Tom Hutton, a university spokesman.
Those students should have a wildly-expanding patient base to treat.
The number of El Paso County residents ages 65 and older will expand from 61,788 people in 2010 to 172,394 in 2040 - a 179-percent increase borne largely from a mass migration of baby boomers in the 1970s, said Elizabeth Garner, the state's demographer.
"It's taken then 40 years, but now they're finally turning 65," Garner said.
In addition, the Lane Center will house a branch of the University of Colorado School of Medicine thanks in large part to $3 million annually from University of Colorado Health as a part of its 40-year lease of Memorial Hospital.
That space, housed on the Lane Center's fourth floor, will feature administrative offices and student support services.
Twenty-four third- and fourth-year medical students are expected to begin clinical training sessions in 2016 at Memorial Hospital and other locations across El Paso County via the UCCS branch.
UCCS officials see the building as another step in their plans for expansion along the North Nevada Avenue corridor, which are based off enrollment projections of at least 15,000 students by 2020.
Officials hope to break ground as early as fall 2015 on an 89,000-square-foot performing and visual arts center along the corridor, a $56-million project that is currently in the architectural phase, Shockley-Zalabak said.
Also, officials also are planning a track and soccer venue - though that project remains years away, she said.
"That's in more of the costing phase than anything else," Shockley-Zalabak said.
A wildcard lies in the City for Champions proposal, which spells out plans for a $27-million UCCS Sports Medicine and Performance Center next to the Lane Center. The building would largely cater toward Olympic athletes and wounded military veterans.
"Our need is really to serve half a state, not just this metro (Denver) region" Shockley-Zalabak said. "And I think that's part of our growth, frankly."