Colorado 2019 Community Health Champions and Advocates Honored

DENVER― Colorado Community Health Network announced its annual awards for Community Health Champions and Advocates, people who support the work of Colorado Community Health Centers (CHCs) and the people they serve, during its 2019 Policy and Issues Forum.

The awards given Feb. 6, 2019, are:

  • Legislator Community Health Champion Awards:
  • Volunteer Clinician Community Health Champion Award: Robert N. Alsever, Pueblo Community Health Center
  • Media Community Health Champion Award: Jennifer Brown, The Colorado Sun

  • Community Health Advocate Award: Jim Farmer, High Plains Community Health Center
  • Stanley J. Brasher Community Health Gratitude Award: Michael Welch, Peak Vista Community Health Centers

Legislator Community Health Champions

The Legislator Community Health Champion awards are given to legislators who have gone above and beyond to support legislation and positions that directly support CHCs and increase access to primary health care for the underserved. This includes supporting CCHN-sponsored legislation and positions, extraordinary efforts such as stewarding legislation through committees and recruiting colleagues to support legislation, and strong, visible support of CHCs.

Sen. Kerry Donovan, representing State Senate District 5 began her work in the State Senate in 2015 and was elected to a second term in 2018. She currently serves as the Majority Whip and is the Chair of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, as well as a member of the Transportation and Energy Committee.

Sen. Donovan has been a supporter of CHCs for many years. As a native of Colorado, she Donovan has spent several years working on issues of importance to the Vail and Roaring Fork Valleys. Over the past few years, she has worked with Mountain Family Health Centers, local businesses and community organizations on potential solutions to address the rising cost of health insurance in the Mountain West. By working with her local community, Sen. Donovan is looking for a solution that addresses the uniqueness of the rural and resort communities in Colorado.

This session, Sen. Donovan is co-sponsoring Senate Bill 19-004, which would establish a pilot program in Eagle and Garfield Counties for people earning between four hundred and five hundred percent of the Federal Poverty Level, allowing a pilot group of people to purchase coverage through the State Employee Health Insurance Plan. Additionally, Sen. Donovan supports House Bill (HB) 19-1004, that would require the State to study and develop a proposal for a public option for health coverage in Colorado.

Sen. Donovan has also supported bills related to funding support for rural broadband deployment, an important infrastructure need of the Western Slope that highlights the technological difficulties for tele-heath service delivery.

For her support of CHCs, including work to address the rising health care costs on the Western Slope, and her commitment to ensuring Coloradans have access to high quality, affordable health care, CCHN chose Sen. Kerry Donovan with the 2019 Legislator Community Health Champion Award.

In the Colorado House of Representatives, Rep. Chris Kennedy is the Assistant Majority Leader and currently serves as the chair of the State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee and as a member of the Appropriations Committee. He was elected to the House in 2016 and reelected in 2018.

Rep. Kennedy believes that health care is a human right. During his first term in the House, he focused on bringing forward policies to address the rising cost of health care, with a focus on transparency in health care costs. He has sponsored several bills about price transparency in the hospital setting as well as free standing emergency departments, advocating that as costs are better understood, the system can transform from the fee-for-service “sick care” model that exists today to a system that pays providers for value, not volume. This session, he introduced HB19-1001, titled Hospital Transparency Measures to Analyze Efficacy, which has already been approved by the House and now goes to the Senate.

In addition, Rep. Kennedy serves on the Opioid Interim Committee, which has worked to introduce a variety of bills aimed at addressing the opioid crisis in the state. In 2018 he sponsored HB18-1007, which helps to make Medication Assisted Treatment more accessible to those in need.

For his work advancing issues around price transparency and cost containment in health care, as well as addressing mental health and substance use disorder across the state, CCHN chose Rep. Kennedy for the 2019 Community Health Champion Legislator Award.

Volunteer Clinician Community Health Champion Award

The Volunteer Clinician Community Health Champion Award honors volunteer clinicians who have been dedicated to serving the needs of the medically underserved. The clinician must have provided direct patients services in or on behalf of a CHC for a minimum of three years and must have led advocacy activities on behalf of the medically underserved.

Dr. Robert N. Alsever, endocrinologist, has been an asset to the Pueblo community since arriving in 1974 after completing his fellowship at the University of Colorado. His volunteerism began at the Southern Colorado Family Medicine Residency Program at St. Mary Corwin Hospital, a safety net provider servicing low income populations. There, he cared for all patients, regardless of their ability to pay. He also taught and precepted many medical students and residents over his tenure, including two current Pueblo CHC doctors. At Community Health Center (PCHC), patients and staff continue to benefit from Dr. Alsever’s generous donation of time, knowledge, and expertise.

Dr. Alsever has been an avid patient advocate, focused on advocating for those in need of diabetes education, since the beginning of his career. Dr. Alsever has been providing endocrinology clinics at PCHC for past 16 years. He is retired from private practice but continues to volunteer his time.

In 1983, Dr. Alsever founded the first diabetes education program at St. Mary’s Corwin with other, like minded health care professionals. The program was established to collect data and monitor outcomes and encourage education of those living with diabetes in the community.

Dr. Alsever’s passion for educating patients goes beyond diabetes. In 2002, he was a member of a local group of citizens that worked to successfully pass a smoking ban in Pueblo through a non-smoking ordinance. While controversial at the time, other communities have followed Pueblo’s leadership because of the improved health in Pueblo, which has seen a reduction in cardiac events since the smoking ban was passed.

For his dedication and loyalty to the underserved in Pueblo, and ongoing capable and compassionate treatment of PCHC patients and staff, CCHN honored Dr. Alsever with CCHN’s 2019 Volunteer Clinician Community Health Champion Award.

Media Community Health Champion Award

Ms. Jennifer Brown is a thoughtful reporter who addresses important and sensitive issues by talking to people who are experiencing those issues. She joined The Colorado Sun in the summer of 2018 and has focused her reporting on various political and human services topics that impact Colorado residents. She has thoughtfully reported on the mental health crises in Colorado with stories on about the statewide Crisis Response System, substance use disorders, depression, homelessness, and suicide prevention.

Before joining The Colorado Sun, Ms. Brown worked at the Denver Post, where she began working with the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless on stories about the Social Impact Bond Program and the lack of adequate mental health services in Denver and across the state. Her thoughtful solutions-driven approach to these important and sensitive issues has elevated the discussion about how to effectively improve social and mental health services in Colorado, while maintaining the dignity of those who are experiencing these issues.

For her thorough, compassionate, and solutions-driven approach to reporting on issues impacting Colorado’s vulnerable residents, CCHN honored Ms. Brown with the 2019 Media Community Health Champion Award.

Community Health Advocate Award

Since 2008, CCHN staff have recognized an advocate of the year during its Policy and Issues Forum. This year CCHN recognized Jim Farmer, member of the Board of Directors at High Plains Community Health Center (High Plains) in southeastern Colorado.

Mr. Farmer has been on the Board of Directors of High Plains since 1997. He has worked tirelessly over the years on behalf of High Plains CHC and the High Plains community to advocate for equitable access to high quality, affordable health care. He has attended many of the Policy and Issues Forums hosted by CCHN and by the National Association of Community Health Centers, helping mentor staff and board members on effective advocacy to policymakers at the State and National levels.

Mr. Farmer’s career has been extensive, including working as a publisher of a daily newspaper, a journalist, a public relations and marketing director for a public institution of higher education, and a director of communications and institutional research in higher education for a public community college. His background in public relations and media has been invaluable in his work on the High Plains Board and as a part of the CHC family. In working to influence policymakers and educate them on the importance of CHCs, Jim has shared his personal story of why his CHC matters to him and his community. He has shared his advocacy skills with other CHC staff, patients, and board members to help them advocate for their CHCs. In addition, Mr. Farmer also served as Chief for the Wiley Fire Department from 2004-2012, truly a man of many hats.

Eric Niemeyer, CEO of High Plains Community Health Center said of Mr. Farmer, “Jim has served tirelessly and selflessly on the High Plains Community Health Center Board for over 23 years! Of the 23 years, he has served over five years as board chair. He is well respected for his business acumen, health center knowledge, and talents in the area of public relations. Jim is well-deserving of this award “

For Mr. Farmer’s energy, thoughtfulness, educational spirit, and commitment to his community, CCHN presented him with CCHN’s 2019 Community Health Advocate Award.

Stanley J. Brasher Community Health Gratitude Award

This award was created and named in honor of Jerry Brasher, former CEO of Salud Family Health Centers and one of CCHN’s founders. The award is given to a CHC executive who has been working at a CHC for ten or more years, has maintained excellent relationships with his or her state and national legislators, and has done something extraordinary as it relates to CCHN’s priorities during their career.

Dr. Michael Welch is the recipient of the 2019 Stanley J. Brasher Community Health Gratitude Award. Dr. Welch is the chief medical and dental officer at Peak Vista Community Health Centers (Peak Vista), which operates 27 sites serving El Paso, Adams, Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert, Kit Karson, Lincoln, Park, and Teller counties. Dr. Welch has been with Peak Vista since 1994.

During his 25 years with Peak Vista, Dr. Welch has been an avid participant in the policy work of CCHN and Peak Vista. He has cultivated relationships with local and federal policymakers and always goes the extra mile to ensure that legislators understand the issues impacting CHCs and their patients.

Dr. Welch is a native of Kansas, where he received both his bachelor’s degree and his medical degree. He is retired from the United States Navy Reserve Medical Corps, where he attained the rank of Captain. Dr. Welch’s military service has been incredibly valuable when addressing issues of veterans’ health and how CHCs are a health care option for veterans and their families. Dr. Welch has been recognized by the National Association of Community Health Centers with the Samuel U. Rodgers Achievement Award, by the Colorado Springs Osteopathic Foundation with the John H. Drabing Award for Extraordinary Dedication and Support, and by the U.S. Navy with both the Navy Commendation Medal and Navy Achievement Medal.

Jessica Sanchez, CCHN Vice President of Quality and Operations, said: “Dr Welch is caring, kind, considerate, and brutally honest when that is required. Dr. Welch is well admired for his tenacity, passion for quality health care and contributions to the Community Health center movement.”

For Dr. Welch’s leadership exemplifying a philosophy of service, dedication and countless contributions to Peak Vista, and undeniably transforming the lives of thousands of Coloradans, CCHN, and the CHC movement in Colorado, CCHN selected Dr. Michael Welch for the 2019 Stanley J. Brasher Community Health Gratitude Award.

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For further information, please contact Maureen Maxwell at (303) 867-9530, cell (303)913-9078, or maureen@cchn.org.

The Colorado Community Health Network (CCHN) is the unified voice for Colorado’s 21 Community Health Centers (CHCs) and their patients. CHCs provide a health care home to more than 790,000 of their community members – more than one in seven people in Colorado – from 61 of the state’s 64 counties. Without CHCs, hundreds of thousands of Colorado’s low-income families and individuals would have no regular source of health care. CCHN’s mission is to increase access to high quality health care for people in need in Colorado. For more information about CCHN, please visit www.cchn.org.

To learn more about careers at Community Health Centers, please visit www.missiondrivencareers.org.