Imagine a community where 138 languages are spoken in the nearby schools, where there is a large concentration of international refugees, and where poverty due to mental illness or advanced age is common. The surprise? This community is one of Colorado’s largest cities: Aurora.
Now imagine how difficult it is to meet Aurora’s health care needs given the complex barriers. Yet Aurora community leaders and dedicated medical students are doing just that through the recently formed DAWN clinic, which provides safety net, free health care to people in Aurora who don’t have health insurance coverage.
A joint venture between the Fields Foundation and Primary Care Progress – Colorado, the clinic is staffed by medical students in their last year at the University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus. These students study medicine, dentistry, pharmacology, physical therapy and nursing.
In addition to providing primary and dental care, physical therapy and mental health counseling, the clinic is partnering with community organizations to offer classes for preventative and wellness improvements. For example, they offer a diabetes class in which participants meet weekly for four months to learn about nutrition, fitness and healthy cooking.
“One of the biggest issues we’re facing is capacity to serve all of the unmet needs. There is simply too much demand and not enough resources, which are hindering the clinic’s ability to serve everyone,” said Rep. Rhonda Fields (a State Representative serving House District 42 and candidate for Senate District 29). Rep. Fields was instrumental in the opening of the DAWN Clinic as the Founder of the Fields Foundation. DAWN must see people by appointment only, rather than offering a fully staffed walk-in clinic.
To Rep. Fields, the DAWN Clinic, like other Colorado safety net clinics, serves as a bridge for people who don’t have any other options for access to health care. For too many, even those with insurance, health care access is out of reach because doctors don’t accept their insurance, the deductibles are too high, or other reasons prevent them from using it. Safety net clinics like the DAWN Clinic give people access to health care. It helps keep people out of emergency rooms at hospitals and reduces the pressure on our health care system.