Originally published by Denver Life Magazine in January 2012
Love is not all you need to raise a child. It takes basic necessities like food, clothing and health care, which many Denver residents are not privy to. The Rocky Mountain Youth Clinics (RMYC) is fully aware of these needs. They serve Denver, Aurora and Thornton children through a holistic approach to health care, regardless of a family’s insurance status. To this growing non-profit, health care means loving all, forever, in details and without prejudice.
According to the most recent 2011 Kids Count Report, written by the Colorado Children’s Campaign, Colorado experienced the fastest growing number of children living in poverty between 2000 to 2009. Additionally, Colorado is the second worst in the nation to insure children living in poverty, with 28 percent of children uninsured in 2008. However, RMYC remains the largest groundbreaking safety net in children’s health.
“You’re committing professional suicide for starting this organization,” said a friend of RMYC Founder and Executive Director Dr. Larry Wolk. But problems for parents with young children, such as prenatal care, immunization costs and chicken pox, were his impetus against any pessimism towards access to health care. “That inspired me,” says Dr. Wolk.
Dr. Wolk, an Anschutz School of Public Health graduate specializing in access to care for school-based clinics, began his residency in 1988 for
the Children’s Hospital in Denver. He confessed to loving Denver — the outdoors, lifestyle and lower humidity — not to mention meeting a nurse during his residency, whom he wed and raises a family with.
“I wanted a teaching clinic to serve children who need it most here in Denver,” says Dr. Wolk. He began this urban mission in 1991, and by 1996, RMYC became a non-profit independent entity. What began with one pediatrician is now a staff of 10 pediatricians, 10 nurse practitioners and 10 physician assistants. “I’ve been kicked half a dozen times by little children,” says Dr. Wolk, “but there are little wow’s on a daily basis, as some of our unforgettable moments.”
In 2009, the clinic completed 49,824 patient visits; 33,803 of those visits were solely funded by Medicaid. With uninsured patients as its primary clientele, RMYC is mostly funded through Medicaid, and sponsored by grants and in-kind donations from surrounding foundations that care for the issues of impoverished children in Colorado.
“RMYC has been a great help to my family, beginning with my four-yearold who suffered from seizures,” says Maribel, mother of Victor, a nineyear old patient of RMYC. Maribel, among many other parents, can attest to the clinic’s help across color lines and socioeconomic status.
“We write notes to Excel Energy to keep household power on for our clients, if we have to,” says Dr. Wolk. RMYC is the hope for many impoverished families, complete with an in-house food bank, Enfamil baby formula and promotional bibs for drooling babies. “A child could come into our Thornton RMYC food bank and shop with a little cart for basic necessities to take home to their families,” says RMYC Marketing Coordinator Brad Sherwood.
There is a “wall of teen issues” at the Denver RMYC. They have plastic fixtures of information to help teenagers understand some of the toughest adolescent issues, such as “Am I Normal?” a guide to the human reproductive system, or “Am I a Virgin?” with information on what abstinence entails. The “Get Fit Clinic” is another Denver RMYC feature, geared to help children with issues of obesity and bullying. This clinic teaches coping strategies to children facing teasing due to their weight. These public health programs provide a guide to aid children and teens through the multitude of struggles they face.
Touring the clinic, with its brightly colored walls, picture books and squeaky toys, is healing for children as well as parents. The positive environment combats the illnesses and tears of its patients. The staff creates a culture that encourages good parenting through all levels of a child’s development.
RMYC implemented the first health services for Urban Peak, a youth homeless shelter for at-risk-adolescents. They also utilize their large children’s library for the Reach Out and Read educational program, an early literacy program for children through age six, to encourage them to love books and education. With two Ronald McDonald Care Mobiles, RMYC can travel to provide health care to uninsured children in the Aurora and Denver areas.
These Rocky Mountain ground breakers will never stop providing for children who lack socioeconomic comfort or advantages. The RMYC health care providers know that raising a child takes more than love; it requires basic necessities like food, prenatal care and immunizations to foster the security kids need to grow into groundbreaking adults themselves.
With an estimated 135,000 uninsured children in Colorado, Rocky Mountain Youth Clinics provide services to significant agencies such as Rainbow Alley, Mt. Saint Vincent Children’s Home, Kids in Need of Dentistry, Children’s Ark, Clínica Tepeyac, Judith Edberg Kids’ Clinic at Crawford Elementary, Adolescent Shelter Program, Montrose County School District, Centennial High School, 9HealthFairs and various organizations throughout Denver, Aurora and Thornton. RMYC annual fundraisers include, “Fore the Love of Kids” Golf Tournament and the “Child Advocate of the Year” Award Breakfast. To learn more about RMYC, please visit rmyclinics.org
To donate, volunteer or participate in fundraisers, visit http://www.rmyclinics.org/support/volunteer/
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