New primary care center for people with developmental disabilities opens


A new, one-stop health center for people with developmental disabilities opened with fanfare and kudos to UCCS faculty and a CU institute Feb. 10.

Peak Vista Community Health Centers, in partnership with The Resource Exchange Inc., HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Colorado Springs and AspenPointe, opened the primary care center to serve adults with developmental disabilities at 2502 E. Pikes Peak Ave. Dozens of medical professionals, as well as parents of adult children with disabilities, attended an open house to celebrate the opening of a long-awaited community need, the Developmental Disabilities Health Center.

For many people with developmental disabilities, finding health care professionals who will work with their unique needs is difficult, according to Carol Bach, M.D., a retired pediatrician and mother of an adult son with multiple disabilities including autism. The challenge looms even larger for developmentally disabled adults who receive Medicaid.

From a waiting room decorated with paintings completed by a person with developmental disabilities to a specially trained staff, the DDHC is designed to make those with disabilities feel comfortable, said David Ervin, executive director of the Resource Exchange. The DDHC is located on the fourth floor of a building that formerly housed Eisenhower Hospital. Thoroughly renovated at an initial investment of about $190,000, the site provides modern exam rooms, all with views of Pikes Peak, and will focus on the estimated 4,000 Medicaid-enrolled adults with developmental disabilities in Teller and El Paso counties. An estimated 13,000 developmentally disabled adults live in southern Colorado.

Ervin credited the concept for a center dedicated to those with development disabilities to a 2007 community health care summit and the efforts of Sara Qualls, Kraemer Family Professor of Aging, who worked closely in the development of the center and prepared doctoral students in psychology to help.

"We are all about collaboration," said BJ Scott, president and CEO of Peak Vista. "We all appreciate Dr. Quall's commitment to this effort. We can do so much more when the community partners on significant efforts such as this new Developmental Disabilities Health Center. Patients, their families and the medical community will now have an invaluable resource to tap for the specific needs of people with developmental disabilities. It is a wonderful example of best practices."

"From a seed grew a tree," Ervin said, with a nod toward Qualls and Enid Ablowitz, associate director and director of advancement of CU's Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities.

Ashley Williams, a 2009 graduate of the UCCS doctoral program in psychology, is a behavioral health specialist for the DDHC and is completing a post-doctoral fellowship at the Resource Exchange. Qualls served as Williams' academic adviser and as a mentor, encouraging her interest in working with those with developmental disabilities. Qualls connected Williams with CU's Coleman Institute which provided scholarship funding that allowed her to continue her studies.

"With the opening of the new Developmental Disabilities Health Center, Colorado Springs has become a national leader in providing specialized health care and related supports for people with developmental disabilities and their families," said David Braddock, associate vice president at the University of Colorado and executive director of the Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities.