DENVER― Colorado Community Health Network (CCHN), the association of Colorado Community Health
Centers (CHCs), announced its Community Health Champions last night at its annual legislative gathering.
The Community Health Champion award recognizes state legislators, volunteer clinicians, and journalists for
their work to improve the health of Coloradans. The 2013 awardees are:
The Honorable Irene Aguilar
Colorado Senate District 32
Dr. Neal Jepson
Volunteer Clinician for Peak Vista Community Health Centers
Ms. Katie Kerwin McCrimmon
Health Policy Solutions
Community Health Champion Legislators
The Community Health Champion award for legislators is given to lawmakers 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.
Sen. Irene Aguilar, representing Denver County, is the chair of the Health and Human Services Committee
and is also on the Judiciary Committee. She serves on the Minority Health Advisory Committee at the Colorado
Department of Public Health and Environment, and has served on the Long-Term Care Advisory Committee
with the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing.
As an instructor and supervisor of residents, nurse practitioners, and medical students at Denver Health and
the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Sen. Aguilar coordinated a program to increase cancer
screening among low income and minority women. She constantly draws on her experience as a primary care
physician at Denver Health’s Sam Sandos Westside Family Health Center for 21 years to inform her legislative
In 2011, Sen. Aguilar led the charge in the Senate to restore some of the proposed budget cuts in the Long
Bill, including cuts to funding necessary to CHCs. It took a lot of time, energy, and leadership in her freshman
year to take on this role and be successful. In 2012, she was the lead sponsor of the hospital charity care bill,
which helps low-income, uninsured patients with their medical bills.
This year, Sen. Aguilar is the lead sponsor of the bill to expand Medicaid to 133 percent of the Federal Poverty
Level under the Affordable Care Act. This is CCHN’s top policy priority this legislative session.
Community Health Champion Volunteer Clinician
Each year, CCHN recognizes a volunteer clinician who is dedicated to serving the needs of the medically
underserved. This unpaid clinician is someone who provides direct patient services in a CHC or to CHC atients in his or her office, leads advocacy activities on behalf of the medically underserved, and has provided volunteer service for a minimum of three years.
Dr. Neal Jepson donates his time and expertise to patients at Peak Vista Community Health Centers in the
Pikes Peak region. Dr. Jepson is a published ophthalmologist specializing in retinal disease and intraocular
lenses. A longtime Colorado Springs resident, he volunteers his time in order to give back to a community that
gave him so much.
Currently, Dr. Jepson volunteers one-half-day a week every two weeks at Peak Vista’s Volunteer Specialty
Center. He is well known for his willingness to see last-minute referrals that need immediate care. Dr. Jepson
is one of Peak Vista’s more active volunteers and is always willing to allow overbooking of his schedule. His
patients appreciate the level of care and education he provides.
Dr. Jepson actively recruits other specialists to support Peak Vista’s patient population since there is always a
waiting list for a variety of specialties. Dr. Jepson never misses a clinic, always says yes when called upon,
and is genuinely happy to be at Peak Vista volunteering his time.
Community Health Champion Media
An integral part of community health is communicating. Information is essential to good health practices and
the media plays a critical role in informing the public about health care. Each year CCHN honors a reporter or
newspaper, radio, or TV station for reporting or otherwise significantly supporting CHCs and the patients they
care for. This award honors the recipient for high-profile coverage of issues facing the underserved, coverage
of emerging issues in health care for the underserved, and for portraying the human faces of health care
Katie Kerwin McCrimmon, a journalist for Health Policy Solutions, carefully explores her stories in-depth and
seeks to understand all sides of issues so she can present those aspects to readers. She does not rely on just
a few interviews but goes onsite to check out her stories and to see what’s really happening on the front lines
of health care in Colorado.
An example came in early June 2012, when exploring the implications of the different possible rulings that the
Supreme Court could make on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Ms. McCrimmon contacted CCHN to learn
about the potential impact on CHCs and health care access in Colorado. Subsequently, she visited two CHCs
that had received ACA funding, one that was operational and another that was under construction. She spoke
with CHC health care providers and patients. Her in-depth story showed how ACA funding was being used to
maintain and expand access to affordable primary health care for low-income Coloradans who would not
otherwise be able to get it.
Ms. McCrimmon makes it possible for the people who experience the effects of health policy in their daily lives
to tell others what the policies really mean. She has reported on the cost and policies for implementing
Colorado’s planned exchange for affordable health insurance; the reasons for the declining access to dental
care; insurance company practices; and the interplay of poverty, community, and cooperative problem solving.
Her in-depth reporting illuminates issues that often receive only limited coverage in other news media. Her
writing is thoughtful and informative.
CCHN and its member CHCs are grateful for the extraordinary efforts of these Community Health Champions
to improve the health of Coloradans.