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Mission Medical Center is the Springs' 'answer to Mother Teresa' 

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click to enlarge Barb Cronin says Mission Medical can always use volunteers. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Barb Cronin says Mission Medical can always use volunteers.

When Bill Orebaugh went in for a checkup after a heart attack, the doctor said he needed some blood work done to make sure there weren't further complications.

But Orebaugh was uninsured, and when he found out what the tests would cost, he figured he'd just have to take his chances.

Then came what Orebaugh calls a "gift from God": The doctor said to schedule an appointment at Mission Medical Center, where uninsured, underinsured and low-income patients can get free care from physicians who donate their time and expertise.

The clinic was formed in 2004, when "a group of church folks ... said they were going to pray for healing," says Executive Director Barb Cronin. "And then they decided if they added a little penicillin to that prayer, it would go a lot farther."

Now, Mission Medical — which is faith-based but doesn't require religious participation — offers an array of services, from primary care to dental care to optometry to behavioral health care.

Oftentimes, clients earn just slightly over the limit to qualify for Medicaid, or moved from another state and haven't had time to apply, Cronin says. Without Mission Medical, they'd likely have to turn to emergency rooms for care.

"You're working two and three jobs, you're low-income, your employer doesn't provide insurance, and you're just scraping by — but this month you earn just a little bit too much to qualify for Medicaid so you're kicked off the Medicaid ranks," she explains. "So where are you going to go? ... If we can keep people out of the emergency room and lower the costs of uncompensated care for those hospitals, we're doing the community a great service."

While Cronin says Mission Medical is most well-known for its primary care services, the clinic often serves as a one-stop shop for patients who need treatment for a variety of problems: "A lot of our folks haven't been to a doctor in a long time, so by the time they get to us, they've got layer upon layer upon layer of issues."

Over the years, Mission Medical has added layers of care to mirror the needs of its clients. The dental clinic, for example, was launched a few years after the primary care clinic opened, because "how can you treat the body when people come in with a mouthful of decaying teeth?" Later, Cronin adds, when Mission Medical realized that depression and anxiety were common among low-income clients, it added a behavioral health clinic.

Those with disabilities find support, too, as Mission Medical has an accessible exam table for patients who use a wheelchair.

Mission Medical relies on a village of volunteers: Cronin is the only full-time employee, and she has just a handful of part-time workers. While over 200 volunteers help with everything from eye exams to groundskeeping, the clinic could always use more professional care providers to donate their time. "We do have a waitlist, particularly in vision and dental," Cronin says, and "funding is always a challenge."

But Mission Medical still makes it happen for patients like Orebaugh, who's also gotten treatment for shingles, asthma and high blood pressure.

"That would be Colorado Springs' answer to Mother Teresa, is what Mission Medical is," he says. "At least, that's my own impression of what it has done for me."

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