A federal grant will help establish a cadre of health care guides who will be hired to help people navigate the state's newly created public health insurance exchange.

Peak Vista Community Health Centers plans to hire 10 people in the coming months using a $310,009 federal grant awarded Wednesday by the Health Resources and Services Administration. The grant brings to 18 the number of guides that Peak Vista plans to hire in the coming months.

The grant marked the second major grant announcement in the past month to help establish expert guides across the state.

In June, Connect for Health Colorado - the state's new insurance exchange - awarded $17 million in grants to 57 organizations across the state for similar positions, including several in the Pikes Peak region.

The guides will be busy on Oct. 1, when residents can start shopping for health care coverage in the insurance exchange - a program created under the Affordable Care Act. They will be tasked not only with helping people choose a plan through the exchange, but also in determining eligibility for Medicaid, which is set to expand.

The new positions announced this week were part of nearly $150 million in federal grants to 1,159 health centers across the country. The grants will allow those centers to hire 2,900 guides nationwide.

In Colorado, 17 health centers received $3.1 million in grants Wednesday - with Peak Vista receiving the second-largest slice of that funding.

Now comes the hard work.

Peak Vista - as well as other organizations across the Pikes Peak region who are planning to hire similar health guides of their own - must now train those new employees in less than three months.

"I think it's going to have some logistics challenges," said Venita Pine, assistant vice president of administrative services for Peak Vista.


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