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photo of approximately 90 Health District staff members gathered at Old Fort Collins Heritage Park. Photo by Emma Holt.

Health District celebrates 30 years of innovation, service

by Richard Cox

It was a bold decision that would reshape health care in northern Colorado for the next 30 years. But by the time the elected board of directors charted a new course for the Health District in 1994, the public agency was used to making history.

At the time, the Health District was still a hospital district — the first and oldest hospital district in the state of Colorado. It had been created by voters in 1960 to help northern Larimer County fund expansion of its local hospital, bursting at the seams from the area’s burgeoning population. For 34 years, the organization’s public funding and governance had helped Poudre Valley Hospital grow to become a cornerstone of the region’s health-care system.

By 1994, leadership needed to take bold steps to ensure our local hospital could continue to grow and innovate. So it placed operation of the hospital in the hands of a new non-profit corporation — now UCHealth — a move that has enabled Poudre Valley Hospital to flourish in ways unforeseen by its founders.

Meanwhile, the hospital district, later renamed Health District of Northern Larimer County, sought to enhance the community’s health in other ways. Surveying the landscape, it found plenty of ways to make a difference.

Health care for those without insurance was hard to find. Thousands could not afford dental care. One in 10 people skipped their medicine due to cost. And access to affordable mental health care was often lacking. Beginning in 1996, the Health District introduced a series of programs designed to fill critical gaps in local health care. New services were launched as new needs surfaced. Others were discontinued as area organizations stepped up to fill the need. Many initiatives were possible only through collaboration with community partners.

Today, the Health District of Northern Larimer County is one of the most unique special districts in the state and country. Part of that is the diversity of services it offers. It also has the commitment and flexibility to respond to new community health needs as they arise, often in ways that might be impossible or impractical for other organizations, public or private.

See the following pages for a look at where the Health District is today after 30 years of innovation and community collaboration.