Access to Care

This page features stories relating to community health centers, provider shortages, Emergency Department usage, and other challenges Coloradans face when trying to access health care. Listen to these stories, visit our Featured Stories page, or search for stories by topic or by location.


Debbie Higgs

My name is Debbie, and I am a yoga practitioner and teacher. I maintain a healthy lifestyle that focuses on clean eating, exploring the outdoors, and yoga. Most would assume from all physical appearances that I am a healthy woman in her mid-twenties, but I have a hidden disability.



Adrienne – Golden, CO

adrienne_pic (1)Adrienne, of Golden, shares her story. During her pregnancy Adrienne had no complications, but when her daughter Sylvia was born she could hardly breathe and then spent ten days in the NICU.

“I didn’t know if my child was going to survive. I didn’t know if I could even form an attachment… Everyone says the moment their child is born is the most magical moment of their life, but I kind of feel like I didn’t get that.”


Laura – Durango, CO

Laura - Durango, CO

Laura, of Durango, is an RN working in one of the local School Based Health Centers. She shares her story about the kids she works with and the pride she takes in her job.

“Being in the school, being accessible, the kids can walk in anytime…Having it in a place that’s familiar to them really makes a big difference.”


Irene – Fort Morgan, CO

Irene - , CO

Irene, of Fort Morgan, works full time but her job is unable to offer health insurance. She shares her story of enrolling in CICP and the difficulty finding a provider who accepted it.

“When I hurt my knee, I was trying to figure out where to see a doctor, how much it would cost me, and it was overwhelming. So I just tried to ignore the pain thinking it would go away… As time progressed, it did not get better.”

Scott and Diane

Scott and Diane – Thorton, CO

Scott and Diane are married and have two teenage girls. Their private small company employers recently decided to stop offering health insurance options to employees. Suddenly faced with new health issues, the couple has experienced great difficulty locating an affordable health insurance option that would give Scott access to the prescription he needs.

“We were finally able to get insurance for our two children but for our entire family the health care that we’ve been aware of pretty much would be the difference of whether or not we pay for our mortgage or our health insurance.”


Chris – Colorado Springs, CO

Chris - Colorado Springs, CO

Chris is a Vietnam veteran with multiple serious health conditions including hearing loss.  He moved to Colorado Springs and immediately found himself needing medical assistance. He shares his experience navigating various health care settings in order to become healthy and work again.

“When I came to Colorado I had had a stroke, quad bypass, and I had lost my hearing and I had lost my job because of all of it, so I was in pretty bad shape.”


Theresia – Colorado Springs, CO

Theresia, previously gainfully employed, shares her story about losing her job and the affect it had on managing her chronic health issues. She describes needing assistance and the impact of a safety net clinic.

“I’ve just kind of learned to be honest, say that there was a need and hold my head up high because I didn’t do anything to cause this to happen and it’s been a very humbling experience.  I’m used to giving, not receiving.”


Nigel – Colorado Springs, CO

Nigel speaks about a clinic in El Paso county that went beyond normal expectations to provide considerate and quality care for his brother, a large man who struggled with receiving care due to fear of judgment and unaccommodating providers.

“The respect and compassion that the clinic showed a huge man, I mean he was a mountain of a man.  He barely fit through doors; you know he barely fit in cars.  But the clinic accommodated all of that.  I will never forget what they did.”


Rafael – Colorado Springs, CO

Rafael, a Colorado Springs resident and Army veteran, was shot while he was in his home and ended up receiving quality emergency care while he was uninsured.

“I think health care should work for the people.  Not for the organizations or the companies.”


Joan – Colorado Springs, CO

Joan, of Colorado Springs, CO, volunteers at a dental clinic and shares her experience supporting individuals with and without dental insurance. She also describes how invaluable dental care is, particularly for people looking for employment.

“The dental needs that I see here in this city are humongous and there’s no good answer, there’s no real solutions for it…”


Juana – Condada Summit, CO

Juana, del condado de Summit, CO, comparte su historia de la navegación por el sistema de Medicaid después de complicaciones en el embarazo inesperado.

“Me salvó el dinero de todos los pagos, las visitas prenatales, los laboratorios, todo, y por lo que el bebé necesita y todo. Pero, yo no tenía planes de ahorro extra … y de repente se encuentra este recibo.”


Jill – Colorado Springs, CO

Jill moved to Colorado Springs from New Jersey in order to restart her life and access proper medical support. With expensive prescription medication for her chronic disease, she needed help.

“People should be able to have a physical and not worry about paying for the doctor.”


Elizabeth – Colorado Springs, CO

Elizabeth, a student in Colorado Springs, shares her story about struggling with a chronic disease and affording the care and medication needed to live.

“All of these bills every three months are just piling up and so my parents actually had to go bankrupt over medical stuff.”

Don Jesus

Don Jesus – Durango, CO

Danny and Mariel, both La Plata County-based Community Health Workers, share the story of Don Jesus. Don Jesus was an elderly gentleman who was found on the ground of his trailer after three days of no water or food and in very bad condition.

“The truth is that Jesus is not only our client, but he is our friend… He is the one who brought us together, who brought this community together.”


Laurel – Durango, CO

Laurel, a Durango resident, shares her story about the local school based health centers. She talks about the impact on kids, their families, and the greater community.

“I would encourage anyone … whether you have kids or not, to check out the school based health centers… because they are making a difference in our community.”

Christina and Jaden

Christina and Jaden – Durango, CO

Christina explains her family’s decision to move from their home in Durango to Denver for her son Jaden’s specialty care. Despite having formed a close relationship with their primary care provider in Durango, the financial strain of living so far away from a neurosurgeon has forced Christina and her family to make this tough choice.

“Its been a very hard decision to move to Denver, because this is home…I’m losing that large chunk of go-to care for specialty care.”

Dr. Mark

Dr. Mark Earnest – Denver, CO

Dr. Mark Earnest is a Professor in the Division of General Medicine for the University of Colorado and the Co-Founder and Director of the LEADS Program. He is also a Denver resident, and tells the story of a patient who sought treatment for kidney disease and her struggle to afford the necessary care. He wants to share her story to show how the medical system could be different, in a way that overcomes people’s fear about change.

“Isn’t it enough that somebody has lost their kidneys and now has to be on dialysis? Do we have to completely ruin them before we provide care?”


Maya – Aurora, CO

Maya, an Aurora resident living with diabetes, shares her story about a time in her life when she had to choose between insuring herself or insuring her children.

“My physician is asking me why I am not coming to the doctor’s.  And I’m telling her it’s because I don’t feel I can miss work.”


Juana – Summit County, CO

Juana, of Summit County, CO, shares her story of navigating the Medicaid system after unexpected pregnancy complications.

“I saved money for all of the payments, the prenatal visits, the labs, everything; and for what the baby would need and all.  But, I didn’t plan on extra savings … and then suddenly there is this bill.”


Donna – Rocky Ford, CO

Donna, of Rocky Ford, CO, shares her story of her husband’s head injury.  She talks about how difficult it was to put him in an assisted living home, and about the importance of patient knowledge.  She recognizes that in the current health care system, good doctors are over worked and it is often up to the patient to ensure proper care is being provided.

“I noticed his personality starting to change.  He’s a big man, very loving, very tender.  All of the sudden he started being angry and I became fearful of him, which I had never been before.”


Terry -Rocky Ford, CO

Terry, of Rocky Ford, CO, is the business manager for her husband’s private practice.  He is a nurse practitioner, and her story describes their small town patient population.

“There are people, groups of people, or groups of families that share one car, one driver.  Those people will call us and say, “well I can’t come to my appointment today because the person who was going to drive me has to work.”  That was a surprise to me that even as small as our town is, there is real limited mobility among people.”

Richard and Bette Faith

Richard and Bette Faith – Rocky Ford, CO

Richard and Bette Faith, residents of Rocky Ford, CO, share their story of Bette’s COPD and their gratitude for Tricare and Medicare assistance.

“We’ve been married 26 years and been through a lot of health problems together over those 26 years.”


Tesfahunega – Aurora, CO

Tesfahunega, an Aurora resident and member of the Ethiopian community describes his battle with congestive heart failure and no insurance.  He claims he uses the Emergency Room to seek treatment feels hurt by the lack of empathy amongst health care workers.

“And nobody cares, the way I see it they don’t care.  They see me going back and forth to the emergency room and should get me my insurance card.  They know I’m in trouble; its just there is nothing I can do.  But there is a lot they can do.”


Lamine – Summit County, CO

Lamine is an immigrant from Senegal, and a Summit County resident, who helps interpret and assist with paperwork for his community members.  He tells a story of his community members too scared of health care bills to seek out medical assistance.

I remember a friend of mine was waiting until the point he was crying to go to the doctor. I kept telling him “you need to go see the doctor.”  And he said “if they send me a bill how am I going to take care of my family?  All they know is sending bills, they not going to fix anything.”


Dave – Summit County, CO

Dave, a resident of Summit County, explains his relationship with his local clinic after losing his job.  He is thankful for the care they provide at reasonable rates.

“It’s… quality care for a reduced price, because of the fact we’re taking into consideration you aren’t making as much money as you used to, and you still need health care.”