Salud Family Health Centers, founded in 1970, has a long, rich history. Today, Salud operates nine clinics in nine communities throughout northern Colorado and serves over 74,000 patients annually. Salud’s roots are in the late ‘60s near the South Platte River, which bisected some of the richest agricultural land in the U.S. It was a land of small communities and truck farms, and in the summer months it was the home and workplace to thousands of migrant farmworkers and their families. Salud has experienced tremendous growth in the past 33 years and what follows is how it all came to be:
1969 – A large migrant labor camp, located for decades in the valley town of Fort Lupton, was ordered closed by the Colorado Department of Health due to severe environmental health risks. The housing displacement, coupled with a time of social unrest in north central Colorado compounded the already urgent health care needs of the farmworker population and led to a proposal to establish a migrant health program in Weld County.
The proposal was submitted to the U.S. Public Health Service by a Denver-based non-profit organization, the Foundation for Urban Neighborhood Development (FUND), with the support from the University Of Colorado School Of Medicine and was funded under the Migrant Health Act. This proposal was chosen for funding because it sought to depart from traditional public health approaches and offered to provide comprehensive, family-oriented, culturally sensitive, accessible, and multi-disciplinary health care to the farmworker population, including patient transportation and outreach services.
FUND established an advisory group of local consumers to assist in implementing the project and to advise on operations and to prepare for governance. This group became the Board of Directors of a non-profit corporation named after the project – Plan de Salud del Valle. It assumed full responsibility for the program after FUND withdrew, as planned, some months after the project start-date. Consumers have been providing program guidance and policy leadership ever since through representative Board member elections held annually.
1970 – Plan de Salud del Valle, commonly referred to as Salud, opened for business on July 1, 1970, in a small apartment in north Fort Lupton. A former onion warehouse across the street was later purchased and converted into a small medical and dental facility, which was to be Salud’s home for over a decade. The apartment and the former onion warehouse, converted clinic still stand and provide a reminder of modest, dedicated and compassionate beginnings. The first year’s budget was $400,990.
1970-1980 – Throughout the 1970s, Salud firmly established itself as an important health provider. One of the key objectives was to remove as many barriers to health care as possible and to make access available to all those in need. This resulted in the establishment of a network of clinics which today cover significant parts of six counties and nine communities.
1978 – In recognition of youth health needs, Salud opened a separate clinic specific to adolescents – New Horizons. That year a dental clinic was also established, with medical added later in Frederick to address the needs of the Tri-Town area.
1979 – With the agreement of the Public Health Service and the State Health Department, Salud took over the operation of a migrant health program in Longmont, providing direct services to the sizeable farmworker population of eastern Boulder County.
Salud also acquired its first mobile unit in 1979. Known affectionately as “the Bus,” the mobile unit took health care to the many farmworker labor camps in Salud’s growing service area.
1980 – Salud opened the Brighton clinic, a facility inherited from the Tri-County Health Department, which was closing its MCH clinic there. Meanwhile, Fort Lupton’s old onion warehouse was bursting at the seams! So Salud planned and built a new 21,000 sq. ft. center on the east side of town, with the help of the Farmers Home Administration.
1982 – Salud’s new headquarters clinic, which included Administration and clinical services, opened in Fort Lupton, twelve years after its beginnings in the small apartment on 11th Street. This clinic, renovated in 2008, still serves the Fort Lupton community.
1986 – A Salud Community Health Center with dental care opened in Commerce City, an urban suburb north of Denver.
1988 – With the opening of the Commerce City clinic, Salud established the Higher Grounds Teen Clinic to serve younger patient’s needs.
1992 – A clinic was opened in Estes Park, a mountain community working with the County’s Health Department nurse and community support.
1994 – With the support of the local hospital and local officials, Salud obtained grant funding to open a health center on the eastern plains in Fort Morgan.
1996 – Salud opened the Brighton Women’s Center. Also in 1996, Salud received accreditation with commendation by the Joint Commission.
2001 – Salud opened the doors to its northeastern-most clinic, in the rural community of Sterling, located in Logan County.
2002 – Salud opened the Fort Collins Health Center and Children’s Clinic.
2005 – Salud purchased a larger, state-of-the-art mobile unit with four exam rooms and the capacity to offer preventive dental services.
2006 – The Stanley J. Brasher Administrative and Training Center opened in Fort Lupton, serving as a central hub for all administrative services; including, training, billing, client services, accounting, research, development, technical support and administration for the Salud network. Also in 2006, the Estes Park clinic built a new clinic on donated property and added dental and mental health services to their new home.
2008 – The flagship Fort Lupton clinic was renovated and the Brighton clinic moved into the former hospital and added dental to their services.
2009 – The Commerce City clinic moved into the 46,000 square foot energy-efficient facility.
2011- Fort Morgan moved into its newly constructed, energy-efficient clinic.
2013 – All of Salud’s sites were recognized as Patient-Centered Medical Homes by the NCQA (National Committee for Quality Assurance).
In addition to providing greater access to services through the establishment of clinics and centers, Salud has also expanded its array of services available. Oral health services have been expanded to eight of nine service sites, and behavioral health has been integrated into Salud’s primary care practices. Pharmacy, podiatry, ultrasonography, social work and case management services are now offered at all nine locations. Today, Salud employs over 500 people and operates on an annual budget of almost $50 million.
Much more to come in 2015 and beyond. Stick with us and we’ll keep you posted!