In May 2022, Chaffee County Public Health (CCPH) launched a pilot program called the Chaffee Community Clinic (CCC) in Salida and Buena Vista. The inspiration for this initiative came from the most recent Community Health Assessment, where access to basic medical and dental care and services for mental health and substance use disorders ranked high among concerned Chaffee County citizens.  The Chaffee Community Clinic, a free mobile health clinic, serves the unhoused, undocumented, low income, those who struggle with substance use disorders, and others who traditionally have difficulties accessing healthcare through a holistic approach to physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

The initiative has been a huge success in Salida and has served some of our community’s most vulnerable populations in areas where they desperately need care and connection. Chaffee Community Clinic has collected over 3,000 used needles (in 2022 alone) as a part of CCPH’s syringe exchange program and disposed of them safely. The clinic has 68 regular participants in harm reduction strategies, with many more clients who have visited for dental, mental health, and other healthcare needs. CCC has worked with clients on access to housing services, medical and dental care, mental health services, and has directly connected over 20 individuals to recovery services for substance use disorder. 

CCC has led community Narcan trainings to prevent overdose in both Salida and Buena Vista and has distributed over 136 boxes of Narcan at the clinic, as well as many more boxes at community events such as raft guide dinners, FIBArk, Pride, and every day requests from community members. These efforts will directly impact the likelihood that a life can be saved from opioid overdose/poisoning. While there are a myriad of reasons clients come to CCC, the clinic has made great efforts to reduce stigma in our community towards people who use drugs by encouraging education and providing those individuals a safe space to seek care. 

In the year of 2022 alone, Chaffee Community Clinic conducted over 40 sexually transmitted infections testing panels in Salida and BV, not including dozens of take home test kits that were distributed at community events. This free access to testing will continue at CCPH’s clinic on Mondays in Salida and Buena Vista on Tuesdays, as well as expanded hours for testing on Wednesdays at the Salida CCPH office from 1-2pm by appointment. 

While the clinic in Buena Vista has been utilized less, it has still served as an excellent resource for community members seeking vaccination, free sexually transmitted infection testing, dental health resources, and access to Narcan. Starting in July, the clinic will be moving its location from the Community Center, to the CCPH office at 112 Linderman Avenue to continue offering needed services. CCC will take a hiatus in Buena Vista in the month of June, but staff will continue to attend events to foster greater education and awareness of CCPH’s programming.

“Chaffee Community Clinic has truly been a labor of love for us at Chaffee County Public Health.  Staff members have dedicated unprecedented time and resources to training, program development, evaluation and assessment, and direct services to ensure its success.  When we started out, we had no idea how significant of an impact CCC would have on the lives of so many in our community.  We are also so grateful for the generous financial support of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Colorado Health Foundation, and Health Colorado that has allowed us to make a dream become a reality,” says Andrea Carlstrom, CCPH Director.