Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt visited the site of the devastating Gold King Mine spill in Colorado that spilled 3 million gallons of contaminated mine water into the Cement Creek and Animas River, saying the Obama EPA “failed” at its mission to protect the environment.
“EPA should be held to the same standard as those we regulate,” Pruitt said about the visit that took place on the eve of the two-year anniversary of the spill.
“The previous administration failed those who counted on them to protect the environment,” Pruitt said.
The press announcement of the visit noted that in January 2017, the previous EPA administration denied 79 administrative claims filed by farmers, ranchers, homeowners, businesses, employees, state and local governments, as well as other individuals seeking damages in connection with the Gold King Mine incident.
“Despite the release of 3 million gallons of contaminated water tainted with arsenic, lead and other heavy metals, which turned the Animas River mustard-yellow, and moved along the San Juan River through Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and American Indian land to Lake Powell in Utah, the EPA Administrator at the time, Gina McCarthy, nor President Obama nor Vice President Biden, ever visited the site of the spill itself,” the press release announcing the visit said.
The visit fulfilled the promise Pruitt made during his confirmation hearing to visit the site. Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper joined Pruitt for a tour of the site.
Following the tour, EPA political appointees participated in a town hall in Durango, Colo. with local residents about how they were affected by the spill.
“We want to listen and learn directly from the community,” Ken Wagner, senior advisor to the administrator for regional and state affairs, said.
“The local community is ground zero in environmental disasters, and we want to hear their concerns and do our best to coordinate and provide assistance,” Wagner said.
The Denver Post reported that Pruitt pointed out the hypocrisy on this disaster compared to the Obama administration’s anti-fossil fuel agenda.
“I think it’s safe to say if this had been any other company, a BP-type of a situation, there would have been an investigation that would ensue by the agency and there would have been accountability,” Pruitt said. “That didn’t take place here.
“The federal government should not be able to hide behind sovereign immunity when the facts don’t meet the protections,” Pruitt said.
“In my estimation, the EPA walked away from those folks and left them in a position of incurring damages without taking accountability,” Pruitt said.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrest a suspect in Los Angeles on Feb. 17. Under a proposal by two Denver City Council members, the Denver Sheriff Department no longer would send notification to ICE when an inmate wanted on an immigration detainer is about to be released from jail.
Re: “Latest ICE-dodging proposal in Denver goes too far,” July 25 editorial.
As a Denver resident, I have been appalled and scared since the election. I’m appalled at the level of hate coming from the federal administration that I now see in this city I love so much. I feel scared of the policies that threaten to tear apart thousands more families, including my own.
As a DACA recipient, I have been able to work doing what I love, contributing to our economy. I am anxiously awaiting the fate of DACA. Meanwhile, at the local level, our city’s collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement has me equally stressed.
Allowing ICE to enter schools, churches and courthouses and allowing ICE to pick up people in jail — when we know rehabilitation and a just and fair criminal justice system will always be more effective — has to end. The proposed city ordinance will do just this, and with it will come a truly safe and welcoming city for all.
Paul Yumbla, Denver
The writer is a Denver teacher and a fellow with Padres & Jóvenes Unidos.
I was frustrated to read your response to Denver City Council members Robin Kniech and Paul Lopez’s bill. To suggest that this bill is simply a knee-jerk reaction to Donald Trump is offensive and misses the bigger issue. The proposed bill is not in violation of any federal laws and repeatedly states that city officials must comply with federal law. Secondly, we’ve seen what happens when cities or states support anti-immigrant legislation in Arizona and Texas. Families are torn apart, more tax dollars are spent, anyone undocumented stops reporting crimes even when they’re the victims, and Latino people are even more the targets of racism.
Naomi W. Nishi, Denver
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Soon after her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2011, Nancy Rose moved with her husband from Washington State to Colorado to help care for her mom.
One day, Nancy, 51, marveled at how a handcrafted multicolored pastel quilt designed to provide tactile stimulation —called a sensory blanket — calmed her restless mother down.
Rose finally had an answer for all the unused fabric she had lying around the house: she would make one of the quilts. “It was a way to cope and release stress,” says Rose, “and to help someone else out.”
Rose didn’t stop at just one. In the two years since, she has created and given away over 150 of her unique quilts, to people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Most nights and weekends, Rose, a hospital respiratory therapist, cuts and sews swaths of colorful fabric and adorns the cloth with a variety of objects: buttons, snaps, zippers, doilies and even baby clothes that can occupy a recipient’s mind for hours. Each quilt has a theme, including golf, football and a bed & breakfast designed for a former B&B owner.
She’s been offered payment for the quilts but always refuses. “I just do it for mom,” Rose says, “to honor her.”
Mom is Betty Muir, 81, of Westminster, Colorado, who once loved to sit in her backyard and garden, and drive around town. For years, Muir was becoming increasingly forgetful and repeating phrases. When she got lost while driving six years ago “that really scared her,” says Rose. Testing soon after led to her diagnosis.
As Rose has watched her mother’s transformation from a social butterfly to someone struggling to verbally communicate, it’s left the devoted daughter “sad, angry, frustrated,” Rose says. “You have to laugh at some of the things or it’s sad, like she can’t form sentences.”
“There are good days and bad days watching it, it’s hard,” says Rose. “But it has brought us closer. I had a new kind of bonding with her.”
Muir lives in a community for people with dementia called Greenridge Place, where Rose has donated some 30 of her quilts.
“I can’t be more grateful and more blessed and thanking her is not enough,” says Greenridge Place activities director Michelle Meyer. “Something so little as these blankets make a world of difference to our residents.”
Rose crafted 70 quilts as centerpieces for the Alzheimer Association of Colorado’s annual fundraiser in March, with each given to someone with dementia.
“It was amazing to see what she did,” says Michelle Nelson, who helped organize the event. “It was her way of coping, and I don’t think she understands the magnitude of what she did.”
Attendee Dana Licht, 48, of Greenwood Village, Colorado, took a Bronco’s-themed quilt dotted with pouches and corks to her mother in Los Angeles.
“My mom loves the quilt, it’s calming and distracting in a good way,” she says. “I think Nancy is a blessing, and an amazing person to do that.”
Colorado Springs City Council remains…
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The president of the Colorado Springs City Council says a majority of council members support letting local voters decide whether to allow recreational marijuana sales.
“We have five or six (of the nine) Council votes,” said President Richard Skorman. “I know the mayor (John Suthers) will oppose it. We’ll have a good community-wide discussion about it. But I don’t expect anything on the ballot until next year at the earliest.”
The Colorado Springs City Council holds a work session Monday.
Colorado Springs has not allowed recreational pot sales since they were approved by a statewide vote in 2013. Manitou Springs, with two dispensaries open, remains the only municipality in El Paso County selling the product.
One of two recreational marijuana dispensaries in Manitou Springs.
“It seems silly to ask voters to decide again after they already decided in 2013,” Skorman said. “If the citizens don’t want it, so be it. But let them decide if we should regulate it and keep the tax revenue.”
Most local authorities are still strongly opposed to recreational sales, a stance that was emphasized twice recently — at a joint meeting of the Council and El Paso County commissioners, and a private meeting involving Suthers and federal officials.
Councilman Merv Bennett is among the opponents.
“I don’t want the issue on the ballot,” he said. “That would mean I’m in favor of it, and I’m not. If the mayor, police chief, fire chief, district attorney, the military installations and school districts say they don’t want it, that’s good enough for me. They think there would be too many problems and not enough resources to deal with them.”
In other Council business, several city staff members and planners presented an update on an ongoing master plan for the southwest downtown area.
The plan now includes improving the area immediately east of the intersection of Sierra Madre Street and Vermijo Avenue where the Olympic Museum is currently under construction.
The city has been working on developing the downtown area since 1971, and has updated the plan 10 times.
Monday’s presentation provided another update and look ahead to plan over the next 20 years.
A cross-country commercial airline flight was diverted Wednesday night, landing in Denver before taking off again.
Spirit Airlines flight 576, from Oakland, Calif., to Baltimore safely landed at Denver International Airport at 8:07 p.m., said Heath Montgomery, a DIA spokesman.
The flight was diverted by a “possible disturbance” on board, Montgomery said. There were no reports of injuries.
Denver police and the FBI “met the flight at the gate” to investigate, Montgomery said.
The flight was delayed by about 95 minutes and was due to arrive in Baltimore at about 3:45 a.m. Eastern Time, according to the Spirit website.
It was not clear Wednesday night whether anyone was removed from the flight or arrested.
Jeremy Papasso, Boulder Daily Camera
Colorado wildlife managers and homeowners have killed at least 34 bears so far this summer, reflecting the bears’ growing reliance on human-derived food amid a seasonal shortage of forage in some areas.
This surge in what the managers call “lethal removals” builds on a pattern in Colorado, where people kill more than 1,000 bears a year. Hunters killed 1,051 bears in 2015 and 933 in 2016, Colorado Parks and Wildlife data show. Government wildlife managers and landowners kill additional bears deemed dangerous; last year, 334 bears were killed — 66 by state wildlife officials. At least 77 bears died last year when hit by vehicles.
Nobody is comfortable with what’s happening with bears, the largest surviving carnivores in the West. Some wildlife managers point to recent dry conditions and shortages of natural food that may be driving bears into cities. But there is evidence that some bears facing urbanization of their habitat are growing accustomed to eating human food in trash cans, campsites, cars and homes.
Even when natural foods are sufficient, about 32 percent of bears on Colorado’s Front Range still ate human food, a 2016 study led by CPW biologist Mathew Alldredge concluded. In western Colorado, 20 percent of bears still ate human food. The researchers analyzed hair and blood from bears killed by hunters to determine their diets.
“We’re receiving more reports of bears investigating people, getting closer to people than we normally would expect,” said Matt Thorpe, a CPW area wildlife manager in Durango (population 20,000), a stronghold for bears. “They’re not demonstrating that natural fear of humans that we usually see.”
Up to 50 people a day are calling the southwest regional office and reporting problematic bear behavior. In the Durango area, an early lush spring gave way to a June 10 freeze and hot dry spells, promising fewer forbs, acorns and berries.
A woman in Bayfield reported a bear chasing her children. She told CPW officials she yelled at the bear and tried to drive it away but that it kept following her kids. A federal contractor used dogs to track down and kill that bear.
In cases like this, public-safety priorities give wildlife managers little option but to kill bears, Thorpe said.
“Nobody gets into this line of work for that,” Thorpe said. “My darkest days as a game warden have been those days when I had to put a bear down — especially if it could have been prevented if people were more diligent about securing trash and other attractants.”
CPW officials say a late spring freeze and a dry July could limit the quantity and quality of forage for bears in some areas.
“… With higher human population densities, bears can be expected to encounter human food more often unless people change their personal behavior,” Lauren Truitt, a CPW spokeswoman, said in a statement. “The closer a bear, or bears, live to populated areas the more we will have human-wildlife encounters due to the easy source of food available.”
The agency estimates a statewide bear population of 17,000 to 20,000, but officials say that number is based on extrapolations and concede significant uncertainty. State wildlife managers have allowed increased hunting, issuing 17,000 bear-hunting licenses in 2014, up from 10,000 in 1997.
State wildlife biologists have established that bears adapt to use human food at least when necessary, and that females foraging aggressively to boost their weight are more successful reproducing when they eat human food.
The recent killings were done by CPW and federal contract wildlife managers. A few bears in the southwestern region were trapped and moved, but biologists say that strategy often fails if bears are moved to habitat occupied by other bears or if a bear already is strongly habituated to eating human trash.
Typically, bears confronted by humans back off. Those turning to human food sources typically are curious young males. CPW’s Thorpe said inquisitive bears increasingly may have had experiences moving with their mothers as cubs into urban terrain near people to find food — rendering them bolder than bears in the past.
Government wildlife managers and landowners killed at least eight bears in the southwestern area between Pagosa Springs and Cortez, CPW officials said. One bear had been eating chickens. Ten more were killed in mountainous areas to the east.
A CPW spokeswoman said 16 bears were killed in the northwestern Colorado, and a couple were killed in the northeast region that includes metro Denver and the booming north Front Range suburbs. One bear attacked a camper west of Denver who was sleeping outside a tent. The bear bit his head.
Traditionally at this time of year, bears forage for forbs and bugs. But they are opportunistic omnivores who find food wherever they can.
Colorado’s booming human population and expanding suburbs mean bears face more people more often, learning to locate human food in trash cans, in pet food bowls outside houses — and occasionally enter houses and cars.
Thorpe said at least four bears this month broke into homes near Durango. The homeowners responded. “Justifiably,” he said, “they shot the bears.”
This summer’s bear-human conflicts reflect complex dynamics that CPW researchers are studying. A recent bear-tracking project over six years around Durango reached conclusions expected to inform a smarter approach to bears. Among the findings:
• Bear-human conflicts do not necessarily mean the bear population is growing but that bears are adapting to take advantage of urban expansion.
• Bears that eat human food do not become addicted — contrary to long-held beliefs that have justified a two-strikes policy of euthanizing “food-conditioned” bears.
• Rising temperatures around dens and urban development in bear habitat shorten bear hibernation, leading more bears out more often, potentially increasing clashes with people.
• Colorado’s bear population could decline. In southwestern Colorado around Durango, where researchers studied 617 bears starting in 2011, the female bear population decreased by 60 percent.
“Coloradans do care about their wildlife, and we need their help to keep these bears wild. It is on all of us to do our part by taking simple steps like locking up trash, taking down bird feeders,” Truitt said. “If more people would be willing to secure their trash we could significantly reduce many of the encounters we face each summer.”
Finding the right charity to donate can be a daunting task because there are so many charities in Colorado. You can donate money or work in these charities, but you have to make sure you are working with the right charity.
The following are the best tips for finding the right charity in Colorado.
Some of your friends and family may give to charity. They can refer you to their charity. This is the easiest way of finding a good charity. You will talk with people who love donating to charities. These people love helping people who need their help. They can even tell you their reasons for choosing their charity. You can give to the same charity.
Use the Internet
Search for charities in Colorado. Use your favorite search engine to search for the best charities in Colorado. You will get a list of different charities. Go through the list. Research every charity you find. There are websites that talk about these charities. Read these websites to learn more about these charities. Choose the ones that you trust.
Attend charity events. You will meet people who love giving. There are some people who have been donating for several years and others have worked with several charities. They can even refer you to the right charity. Tell them why you want to start donating. They can match you with the right charity. Find charity events near you. You will meet so many volunteers.
You now know how to find a charity to donate in Colorado. Use the tips mentioned in this article to make the right decision. Your friends and family can refer you to the right charity. Use the internet to find the right charity. And attend charity events if you want to find the right charity to donate.
This past spring, the Denver Broncos selected eight players in the NFL Draft and signed 20-plus college free agents. Once again, GM John Elway has flooded the roster with new blood, trying to find the next great Broncos.
Not all of Denver’s 2017 rookie class will be great. In fact, most of them will be out of the league three years from now.
Perhaps the Broncos can mine some value out of the undrafted ranks once again. If so, it will be a bonus.
More than anything, the Broncos need this rookie class to be productive and make an impact early on. With a rookie Head Coach, a first-time defensive coordinator and relative inexperience at quarterback, the Broncos need as an immediate return on their 2017 Draft investment as possible.
Eight draft picks. Six offensive players and two defenders. There’s no guarantee all eight rookies will make the 53-man roster, although, this year’s class has the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of 2016’s group, and stick with a 100 percent conversion rate.
The Broncos are a young team. That can be a good and bad thing. If they can get steady leadership at the coaching level and clarity and stability at quarterback, Denver’s youth movement could be the arrow in their quiver that allows them to shake things up in the AFC.
But those are two big ‘ifs’. Regardless, if the Broncos are going to take a step forward this year, they’ll need production from their rookie class. But which rookies will the Broncos rely on the most? Let’s take a look.
Garett Bolles, OT
Sure, the Broncos could get by without Garett Bolles as the starting left tackle. With the improvements Ty Sambrailo has apparently made, he could be a serviceable starter, at the very least.
But the Bronco rushing attack isn’t going to blast through to the next level with Sambrailo at left tackle. It’s just not going to happen.
With free-agent acquisitions — Ronald Leary and Menelik Watson — plugged into the starting lineup, the right side of the Broncos offensive line promises to be powerful. Add Garett Bolles, and all his physicality at the point of attack, to the left side — the Broncos could explode upward out of the league doldrums and into something special.
A worst-to-first type of transformation would be the best-case scenario with Bolles in the lineup. Pump the brakes, because nothing is guaranteed. But the Broncos aren’t going to experience any kind of renaissance in the trenches with Sambrailo at left tackle.
As Head Coach Vance Joseph likes to say, Bolles was a first round pick for a reason. He’s nasty, powerful, athletic and he finishes plays with violence. As nice of a guy as he is off the field, on the grid-iron, Bolles transforms into a kind of Hulk-ish brute.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1777865-film-room-garett-bolles-v… I say that in the best sense of the word. Frankly, the Broncos could use some brutality up front. If they want to overcome their short yardage woes of the past, the Broncos are going to need Bolles to come through and be the bully.
Denver’s first-rounder started out the offseason on the second team but by the time OTAs and mini-camp concluded, he was splitting reps with Sambrailo with the ones. When training camp kicks off on July 27, Bolles will immediately compete on the first team and work to earn the starting job.
It’s great to see him move up the depth chart already. But Bolles’ true skill-set, and his best attributes, won’t truly come to the surface until the actual contact begins. When the pads go on and it’s time to hit someone, I expect Garett Bolles to take control of the left tackle position.
His pass protection will be a work in progress, but with Von Miller already taking him under his wing, Bolles will receive a first-rate education long before the Broncos take the field for their first regular season game. There might still be some trial and error in that department, but when it comes to the running game, it shouldn’t take us long to measure Bolles’ impact.
Carlos Henderson, WR
For the last two seasons, the Broncos have lacked a true difference-maker in the slot. Following Wes Welker’s departure, the team tried to get by with a combination of journeyman savvy, and raw, undrafted zeal.
It hasn’t worked. Last year, Denver’s third most productive receiver wasn’t a wideout, nor was he a tight end. He was a rookie running back by the name of Devontae Booker, who finished the season with 31 receptions for 265 yards and a score.
However, that’s more of an indictment on Gary Kubiak and Rick Dennison than it is on Jordan Norwood, or Virgil Green.
As Will Keys pointed out recently, tight end A.J. Derby developed some great chemistry with Trevor Siemian late in the year, after Denver acquired him via trade with New England. But inexperience, and Derby’s late-season injuries, prevented him from developing into a sure-fire third option in the passing game.
John Elway had enough of his team’s dearth of explosive talent at WR3. When the NFL Draft rolled around, he pulled the trigger on Louisiana Tech wideout Carlos Henderson in the third round, and Georgia’s diminutive play-maker Isaiah McKenzie in the fifth round — for good measure.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1777462-film-room-carlos-henderso… Henderson (5-foot-11, 199 pounds) is built more like a running back than a receiver. And with the ball in his hands, he plays like a running back, too.
He can make plays outside the numbers, but when Henderson gets the ball in space, he is absolutely electric. The Broncos are hopeful that he can set himself apart early in training camp and head into the regular season as WR3.
Up to this point, McKenzie has earned more praise during the Broncos on-field activities. But for these elite athletes, who possess otherworldly speed and athleticism, it’s easy to look good in shorts.
When the hitting starts, we’ll find out what’s what. McKenzie has raw ability, but Henderson is a more refined receiver at this point and much more physical. With Mike McCoy’s tactical ability as a play-caller, I can only imagine the damage Henderson could do as a rookie.
For too long, opposing defenses have been able to bracket Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. With an impotent running game and no viable third receiver, Denver’s top-two receivers have had to work extremely hard for every catch and yard.
But if Carlos Henderson can acclimate to the speed of the NFL game quickly, opposing defenses will have to pick their poison. That should give the quarterback more opportunities to find the mismatch and exploit it, whether it’s Paxton Lynch or Trevor Siemian who wins the starting job.
Henderson can also contribute as a special teams returner. But if the Broncos have their druthers, McKenzie will be the one taking on that responsibility, which will hopefully go a long way toward preserving Henderson’s health and keep him fresher.
But the Broncos will be relying on McKenzie very much this year. It’s been a long time since Denver had anyone returning punts and kicks who could flip field position and change the game. McKenzie offers the team that possibility, if he can hold up physically and protect the football.
DeMarcus Walker, DE
Defense might be Denver’s strength, but there was a reason they fell to 28th in the NFL against the run last year. They lacked depth on the defensive line.
Injuries and free agent departures contributed to the Broncos step back defensively, but this time around, Elway reloaded the group with a balance of veteran experience and rookie talent.
Having a fresh rotation in the trenches will not only help bolster Denver’s rushing defense, but also keep guys fresh to rush the passer on third down. DeMarcus Walker will factor in greatly to that effort.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1780457-film-room-analyzing-demar… Taken in the second round out of Florida State, Walker comes to the Broncos fresh off a senior campaign in which he finished second in the nation with 16 sacks. While more than one Mile High Huddle analyst doubts Walker’s ability early on to make an impact as a run defender, where we all agree he can truly help out is on third down.
In Von Miller and Shane Ray, the Broncos have one of the best edge-rushing duos in the NFL. The tandem combined for 21.5 sacks in 2016.
But with the exception of Derek Wolfe, the Broncos couldn’t get a consistent inside push on third down, which allowed opposing quarterbacks to step up in the pocket to evade the edge pressure all too often.
As a role player, at the very worst, Walker will rotate in at defensive end on third down. It might take him some time, as it often does for young defensive linemen, to fully develop the technique to make an impact against the run, but he offers immediate value as a pass rusher.
If the Broncos can stay healthy up front, they have the D-line pieces to return to 2015 form. But it will not only take a big contribution from Denver’s 2017 second round pick, but also last year’s.
Before he had to undergo a knee scope to close out Denver’s offseason training program, Adam Gotsis had become the darkhorse to actually start opposite of Wolfe. Gotsis has put on the necessary weight to hold up at the point of attack and was a constant force during OTAs.
Fortunately, Gotsis is expected to return to action early on in training camp. With a healthy Gotsis and DeMarcus Walker champing at the bit, I see the Broncos D-line taking a big step forward in 2017.
If Jake Butt were 100 percent healthy, he would be on this list. But I can’t say that Denver’s 2017 prospects rely on a rookie still recovering from an ACL tear.
If Butt suffers no setbacks in his recovery and manages to make an impact as a rookie, consider that a bonus and a football blessing. Just don’t count on it.
Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. (AP) – A jury is deliberating the fate of a former Colorado sheriff charged with extortion and witness tampering.
The Colorado Springs Gazette reports jurors began deliberating Monday afternoon after closing arguments in the case involving former El Paso County sheriff Terry Maketa.
The 52-year-old former lawman is accused of trying to undermine the credibility of three deputies and threatening to terminate a $5.3 million contract with the jail’s health provider if it did not fire an employee who refused to support then-Undersheriff Paula Presley’s candidacy to succeed him.
Prosecutors also say Maketa and others coerced a woman involved in a domestic dispute with a deputy to recant her story so the deputy could keep his job.
Maketa declined to take the stand in his own defense.
© 2017 Associated Press
A cyclist rides past the University of Colorado Hospital on June 24, 2016.
Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs has stood for 71 years as an independent bastion of health care in its bucolic mountain community.
“We’ve done very, very well here from a standpoint of quality of care,” said its CEO, Frank May.
But Yampa Valley won’t make it to 72 years on its own.
The 39-bed hospital announced last month that it is merging with Colorado hospital heavyweight UCHealth, which already encompasses seven other hospitals and more than 1,600 patient beds in the state. In doing so, Yampa Valley has become the latest rural hospital in Colorado to be gobbled up by growing Front Range health care systems — a voracious process that analysts say is saving some of Colorado’s most vulnerable hospitals but could also lead to higher prices for patients.
The force driving the trend is simple economics, said Allan Baumgarten, a Minneapolis-based consultant who produces reports on the business of hospitals. As smaller, rural hospitals labor under the weight of ever-more sophisticated technology demands, larger hospitals are looking to spread the investments they’re making into those areas across greater numbers of patients.
As a result, what used to be thought of as local health networks have expanded to cover increasingly broad swaths of the state. And it’s not just in Colorado where this is happening.
“It’s a trend that’s been in motion for more than a decade, at least in certain states,” Baumgarten said. “…The notion of what your local market is is really changing significantly.”
In Colorado, the last decade has seen a flurry of consolidation among hospitals.
UCHealth, known for its flagship University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, added Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs and Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins to its quiver. SCL Health, which operates Denver’s Saint Joseph Hospital, scooped up Platte Valley Medical Center in Brighton.
Centura Health, owner of St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood, has been particularly active in rural Colorado. The health system added Durango’s Mercy Regional Medical Center in 2011, bought a Frisco physicians group in 2015 and also has taken over management of Leadville’s St. Vincent Hospital, which likely would have closed without Centura’s intervention. The latter is often seen as a good example of consolidation helping to keep cash-strapped, small-town hospitals viable.
“We want to keep health care local,” a Centura spokesman said at the time the St. Vincent deal was announced.
That, said Baumgarten, is the upside of mergers.
Small-town hospitals can find themselves in a Catch-22, he said. Because rural areas often have higher percentages of people on Medicaid and Medicare, the hospitals there may not make as much money as their big-city brethren. Because the hospitals are small, though, they struggle to attract the specialists and buy the high-tech equipment that could lead to greater revenue.
“Rural hospital leadership really has a lot of competing things they have to worry about,” said Tiffany Radcliff, a professor at the University of Colorado’s School of Medicine who studies health economics.
The mergers, though, may bring new worries for patients. Radcliff pointed to a study last year of hospital mergers in the same state but different local markets. Following the mergers, health care prices increased 6 to 10 percent, according to the study.
“It seemed like the cost increases may have been due to a little bit of market power,” she said.
May, the Yampa Valley CEO, said his hospital’s merger with UCHealth isn’t about making more money but about providing better care.
Before the merger, the hospital had to shift nurses out of clinical care and into administrative roles to keep up with paperwork. It also had to send patients to Denver when they needed specialty care — such as in neurology — that the hospital couldn’t provide. Joining with UCHealth means Yampa Valley will have administrative help, and it also means that specialists from UCHealth will travel to Yampa Valley a few days a week to see patients in Steamboat Springs.
“I do have to acknowledge that sustainability for the future was part of the conversation,” May said.
But the thing he is most excited about?
“We really have an infrastructure,” he said, “that is going to get us into the future and provide patients with as high quality care as possible.”