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Colorado's Health Care Safety Net

Colorado’s health care safety net is growing and changing. CHI takes a look at the system.
Published: September 24, 2021 | Updated: September 28, 2021

Colorado’s health care safety net, the network of clinics and providers that care for the most vulnerable residents, is growing and changing. To better understand the changes in Colorado’s health care safety net, it is necessary to understand its structure.

The health care safety net is a term describing the providers and clinics serving people who experience inequities that create barriers to getting needed care. Many of these inequities are rooted in historic policies and discrimination that have kept people in poverty. Primarily located in areas where care is limited and social barriers are common, safety net providers offer medical services, oral health care, behavioral health care, and other resources most needed within the communities they serve.

The Safety Net Primer (available at right) explains the elements of the state’s health care safety net, who uses its services, and how the system is funded.

Safety Net Learning Labs

From 2012 until 2017, CHI convened a group of safety net experts several times a year for events known informally as "SNAC Labs." The group studied emerging topics and concerns in safety net care. Topics included a comparison of Medicaid accountable care in Oregon and Colorado, a study of the motivations of Medicaid members who use the emergency department, and the status of opioid treatment programs around the state.

Each meeting was recapped in a CHI publication called Food for Thought. Click here to explore meetings from past months and years.

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