Serving Our Community Since 1975
Information Update for Southern Teller County Health Services EMS District
Southern Teller County EMS to move to the vacant Cripple Creek Care Center Building
There have been many changes for the Southern Teller County Health Services District (STCHSD) in 2022. STCHSD is a special Health Services District serving Teller County. It was formed in 1975 under the State of Colorado Title 32 Statutes with the original purpose of providing a medical clinic and long-term nursing care services to area residents. It has since expanded to provide Emergency Medical Services (EMS) to residents, visitors, and area workers.
Under Title 32, a Special District is an independent government entity supported by mill levy taxes on properties within District boundaries, as well as revenues from their services. STCHSD is governed and managed by a seven-member volunteer Board of Directors. The district governed two entities: Cripple Creek Care Center - a 24/7 skilled nursing care residential facility - and Southwest Teller County Emergency Medical Services, both located in Cripple Creek, until June 15, 2022 when the board and the Nursing Home Administrator Lawrence Cowan made the difficult decision to close the Cripple Creek Care Center. This was decided because of the inability to hire nurses and certified nursing assistants. The staffing was so critical that Administrator Cowan worked as a night nurse for the last nine months they were open and part and full shifts during the day for the previous one and half years as did the Director of Nursing Services. The staffing shortage caused a downward spiral because they were not able to take on new admissions because of the nurse-to-patient ratio they were required to maintain, and the leadership team of the care center never wavered in jeopardizing resident care with lower staff numbers. With the census they had, they could not earn enough revenue to pay the rapidly increasing expenses. It was a no-win situation. The Care Center was a for-profit business, compared to EMS which is a necessary service. They were proud of the fact that the Care Center had a 5-star rating from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which is the highest level they award. This is something they would not be able to maintain because of the staffing and they did not want to give their patients substandard care. With all those factors against them, closure was the most responsible option. “There have been 11 nursing homes to close in Colorado,” said Doug Farmer, President and CEO of the Colorado Health Care Association while being interviewed for a Denver Post article. (https://www.denverpost.com/2022/08/12/colorado-nursing-homes-closing/). According to this same Denver Post article, “In April, the American Health Care Association has reported that 327 nursing homes have closed in 2 years across the U.S. in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic”. Upon the closure of the Care Center, of the 33 residents, only five were from the Southern Teller County Health Services District. Most of the residents never paid taxes to the district.
Southwest Teller County EMS has always been housed by the city of Cripple Creek in the Fire Department. The Cripple Creek Fire Department (CCFD) is crowded and there is no room for the fire department or EMS to expand. EMS can only have three of their four ambulances parked in the fire department, because of the limited space. One of the ambulances must stay outside, exposed to the elements. The initial intention after the closure of the Care Center was to sell the building and use the money from the sale to purchase land and build an EMS building. The building was listed for sale, and was only shown twice, without any interest because there are not showers in each of the rooms. The other issues were the limited amount of vacant land in Cripple Creek along with the massive cost of the available land, and the expense of new construction. It was
quickly figured out that there would not be enough money to buy land and build a large enough facility that was adequate for the current operations and allowed for future growth. The board of directors decided to create a task force compromised of 5 persons, including board members and local community stakeholders, the decision was made to propose that the care center to be repurposed for the use by EMS with modifications and other community services as needed, the decision was ratified and voted on during the October 2022 board meeting and was unanimous among board members. The building is sufficient in size to accommodate future growth while saving the taxpayers millions of dollars. The building and land are paid for and owned by the district.
There are many benefits to EMS for having this building. Each full-time employee will have their own bedroom, compared to the six shared beds they currently have at the Fire Department. All their vehicles will be able to be parked inside once the bays are built. Because a new 2WD ambulance cost about $260,000 And a new 4WD ambulance costs around $300,000, it is a nice way to protect the investments.
Two bedrooms have been offered to the Cripple Creek Police Department (CCPD) at no cost because most of their employees live outside of Teller County. Many times, they work a night shift, have court in Cripple Creek the next day, then return to work that night. This will give them the opportunity to get some good rest before returning to duty. This is a nice way to return the favor to the city for housing EMS employees at no cost for so many years. Police Chief Bright is also pursuing moving the backup CCPD dispatch center from the CCFD to the new EMS building, which would give them a quiet place without worrying about unauthorized personnel having access to confidential information. That is difficult now in the crowded fire department. It is also a mile away from their primary dispatch center, compared to the fire department which is just down the street. There have been times in the past when the Fire Department and Police Department had to be evacuated at the same time due to emergencies.
The Ute Pass Health Services District (UPRHSD) in Woodland Park has secured a grant to put one Community Paramedic in Southern Teller County for a 12-month period starting in January 2023. They will provide Community Integrated Health Care Services (CIHCS) which require a special Community Paramedic endorsement and a home healthcare license. Services provided may include initial and subsequent consumer assessments, certain permissible medical interventions, care coordination, resource navigation, consumer education, medication inventory, administration, and review, gathering of laboratory and diagnostic data, and mental health assessments and placements. SWTCEMS will learn from the UPRHSD system with the intention of providing similar services in the future. There would have been no room to pursue this without the acquisition of the building.
Other features of the building will include:
● 3 dedicated EMS training rooms and one for community CPR classes
● Large training and meeting room (Dining Room)
● An exam room for walk-in patients
● Weight Room
● Cardio Room
● Offices for the EMS Director, Supervisors, Medical Director, and the EMS Liaison
● The building is now designated as an American Red Cross Shelter
The bays to house the vehicles will need to be constructed before all EMS crews are staying 24/7 in the new facility. There will be a request for proposal (RFP) put out soon for the construction of the bays.
The community has been very generous and donated several items, including a pool table with a ping pong table top, an exercise bicycle, a Bow Flex machine, a treadmill, an elliptical machine, a Total Gym, a heavy bag, an inversion table, and a sit up bench. They are so thankful for the support they have received.
Southern Teller County Health Services
700 A Street North
P.O. Box 397
Cripple Creek, Colorado 80813