National WIC Association Visits Tri-County Health Department in Denver, Colorado

By Judy Fowler, RD, MS; Tri-County Health Department Program Manager

Anna-Maria Roache, ACOG Program Manager, visited Tri-County Health Department on August 15-16, 2016.  Tri-County Health Department is the largest health department in Colorado, serving 1.4 million people in the three counties of Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas.  We have 11 offices in a 3000 square mile area.  Our target areas for the grant include Adams County which is the northernmost county with a population over 440,000 and the City of Thornton in the southeast corner of Adams County with a population over 132,000.  Our Leadership team took part in the windshield tour with Anna-Maria including Jill Bonczynski, MS,RD, Nutrition Director, Judy Fowler, MS, RD, Project Manager, Jen Schneider, RD, IBCLC, Outreach Coordinator, Jeanette Ribota, WIC client, and Angela Gilmer, Certified Nurse Midwife.  

We first had a Meet and Greet with Anna-Maria at our Administrative Offices where she was introduced to several of our Nutrition Staff plus our Dietetic Interns ontheir first day of their Internship and had a quick tour.Then we headed out 25 miles north to our first stop at Immaculate Heart of Mary Stewardship Center food bank.  This well organized center is supported by their 6600 parishioners. They provide 176,000 pounds of food a year which serves 11,000 people. Also within the food bank setting is a program to specifically support young pregnant mothers and their infants.  Our nearest WIC clinic now has a presence there twice monthly to reach those eligible for WIC. We took a tour including a comprehensive explanation of the many offered services including resources, different food packages for different needs including homelessness and medical nutritional needs and met a few of their wonderful volunteers.  

We then went about 5 miles to the Stonehocker historical site which includes a WIC supported community garden. This community garden is the largest in the Adams County garden co-op and is cared for as part of collaboration between WIC and Senior Hub, particularly the Retired and Senior Volunteer program.  Tom Rapp, director of that program and a driving force for the gardens, gave us an informative talk on the history of the site which includes the only remaining brick farmhouse in built in the 1800’s in Adams County.This garden alone supplied 817 pounds of fresh produce for WIC families, food banks, and other community members in need last year.  

Lunch was at El Jardin, a local Mexican restaurant with great food and a part of this community for over 30 years.  Following lunch we went about 10 miles further north to another of our community gardens in the city of Brighton, a farming community.  Brighton is located in a designated food desert by Census data in Adams County. Our 27J garden has been in collaboration with the Brighton 27J school district since 2010.  This garden produced 1,142 pounds of fresh produce last year for the community.  In addition, we visited Lulu’s Farm Market in Brighton which is surrounded by the fields of produce that supply that market.  This farmer accepts WIC vouchers, SNAP, and just might start a mobile farm stand in other communities in our target area that are also designated as a food desert.  Anna-Maria called this the highlight of her visit!

Day 2 started with a meeting at one of the WIC clinics, Park Centre, which serves our target area where we discussed some of the challenges related to the creation of a billing system for breastfeeding counseling in a medical provider setting by an RD, IBCLC from the public health setting in Colorado.  Following this we met with two different provider groups where we hope to create such a system.  

Anna-Maria was introduced to the Rocky Mountain Youth Clinic which is a Federally Qualified Health Center serving about 2,000 pediatric patients per month of which 80% are on Medicaid.  In addition to a WIC office added to this clinic, it includes a Behavioral Health specialist, classes for both failure to thrive and overweight children, and its very own food bank.  Within this setting we are looking at a system for billing for community supports provided by an RD, IBCLC.  

Next stop was the Women’s Health Group, an OB-GYN practice where Angie Gilmer, our OB-GYN representative on the grant leadership team, is a provider.  This practice has about 25,000 active patients with 1,000 deliveries/year and 30% on Medicaid.  We met with Deena Marchant, Practice Manager and Erin Marchant, Operations Manager to further discuss systems for billing related to breastfeeding supports provided by a community partner and RD, IBCLC.  

Our afternoon included a scheduled Bringing Health 2 U coalition meeting and our final review of the site visit.  The coalition meeting included representation from Thornton City Council, Mack Goodman; Thornton City Government, Jaylin Wac, and Takami Peemoeller;  Colorado State Representative, JoAnn Windholz; North Suburban Hospital community relations, Ellen Duran; Salud community clinic, Jessica Christensen; Adams 12 schools, Jill Collins; Adams County government, Esther Ramirez; and Immaculate Heart of Mary Stewardship Center, Theresa Kozney. Agenda items included a review of the status of the CAP and discussion of next steps.  The coalition members participated in a gap analysis of participants and will invite identified missing partners.  Following the meeting, Anna-Maria met with the leadership team for the final review and then headed west to see a mountain!