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Peak Vista Community Health Centers Saturday, June 17, 2006. Photo by Hunter McRae

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The first primary care doctors to set up shop in southeast Colorado Springs’ 80916 ZIP code plan to begin seeing patients by mid-February.

Peak Vista Community Health Centers on Friday purchased a 30,500-square-foot building at 1815 Jet Wing Drive for its new southeast Colorado Springs clinic, said Pam McManus, the organization’s president and CEO. Once open, the clinic would offer the first primary care clinic in an area that experts often refer to as a “health care desert,” for its lack of family doctors.

'Health care desert' of Colorado Springs getting much-needed clinic

The nonprofit federally qualified health center plans to open a temporary clinic in a small section of the the building within about a month, and a more permanent clinic in the fall, said Louie Larimer, Peak Vista’s executive vice president and chief operating officer.

“As our mission is to reduce access barriers, I think one way of looking at it is we’re going to where the population resides, rather than saying ‘Hey, the population has to come here,’” Larimer said.

The move to southeast Colorado Springs aims to help a community saddled with myriad disparities. A Gazette report in late 2017 found the city’s southeast quadrant suffers from higher than state average rates for obesity, diabetes and fair or poor health, along with some of the highest rates of mental distress in the state. Residents in the southeast also typically drive farther for health care, and delay seeking it because they can’t afford it.

Experts say some of that is due to a concept called the social determinants of health — such as high rates of crime, poverty and gang activity in the southeast — that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say can affect a person’s overall health and life span.

But for many southeast residents, simply accessing medical care can be difficult.

No primary care doctors are known to practice medicine in 80916, according to the El Paso County Medical Society. And only a small number are outside the Printers Parkway area in the neighboring 80910 area code.

The new clinic aims to reduce transportation-related barriers to seeking care, Larimer said.

“When we made the site selection, it’s sort of central in that area,” Larimer said. “It has this accessibility, it has the visibility, it has bus transportation and charter schools nearby; it’s closer to the shopping centers. So it’s a way of reducing the barriers.”

The building — which formerly housed Altierus Career College — was purchased Friday for nearly $4.2 million, Peak Vista officials said. They plan to spend another $2.8 million on renovations and equipment. The organization still must must raise slightly less than half of the $7 million in planned capital expenses for the clinic, McManus said.

The new clinic will open in two phases, Peak Vista officials said.

In the first phase, the nonprofit plans to open a portion of the building in mid-February for a small, temporary health clinic with about five exam rooms. Meanwhile, another portion of the building will undergo extensive renovations for a larger, more permanent clinic.

In September or October, the nonprofit plans to move out of that temporary clinic space and into the newly renovated portion of the building. That final clinic space will utilize slightly more than a third of the building — about 11,000 square feet — and include up to 15 exam rooms.

At that point, the clinic will house six primary care providers, as well as two behavioral health specialists, a dentist and a dental hygienist, Larimer said.

The rest of the building will be leased to other nonprofits and government agencies — creating a “community hub” with a wealth of services for southeast residents, Larimer said. Details on which organizations might move in have yet to be finalized.

The clinic should resemble Peak Vista’s facility in Fountain, which includes office space for AspenPointe, the El Paso County Department of Human Services and the Pikes Peak Workforce Center.

“I really see this as a community collaboration,” McManus said.

Public safety net reporter

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