Health First Community Health Champion award goes to Creek Valley Health Clinic

August 22, 2022

Article by: Health First Foundation

Our 2022 Health First Community Health Champion award goes to Creek Valley Health Clinic for its dedication to improving community health in an area very much in need of health services.

Creek Valley Health Clinic serves about 8,000 residents in one of the farthest reaches of northern Arizona - the towns of Colorado City and Hildale, located on the Arizona-Utah border between Grand Canyon and Zion National Parks.

Before the clinic opened in 2019, residents had no local, affordable health care. The nearest primary and dental care were either in St. George, Utah, 45 miles away, or Page, Arizona, 112 miles away. Specialty care was even further out in Flagstaff or Salt Lake City.

“This is a community that has a strong need for community health and intervention; that goes for medical, behavioral, and dental services,” said Hunter Adams, CEO and co-founder of the nonprofit Creek Valley Health Clinic. “If you look across the board at tobacco use, suicide, depression, anxiety, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, accidental overdose, and injury, … Colorado City and the surrounding area have a higher prevalence of all of those compared to both the Arizona average and the national average.”

Historical radical religious influence, high local poverty rates, and geographical isolation fueled the health disparities.

Since its opening, the clinic has seen more than 5,000 patients and has recorded significant improvements in depression remission, diabetes and hypertension management, early access to prenatal care, weight management, and tobacco cessation.

“[Our] services, they go beyond just seeing a doctor,” said Adams. “We’re really looking to transform our entire community and help our community live as safe, healthy, and empowered as possible.”

Two grants from Health First Foundation Northern Arizona have supported behavioral health services at Creek Valley Health Clinic.

“Hundreds of patients have been impacted by this program, and there is no doubt that some lives have been saved as part of this program,” Adams wrote in a grant report.

In one year, the clinic saw 675 patients for behavioral health services and reported a 16% rate of depression among all its patients and no suicides. That’s progress considering 26% of the total community population reports living with depression and its suicide rate is more than twice the national average.

One foundation grant supported integrated care, providing patients with the opportunity to talk with a behavioral health specialist while seeing a primary care practitioner. Checking in on an individual’s emotional and mental well-being during routine visits recognizes the interconnectedness of physical and mental well-being.

“Today I had an amazing visit with Joanne Yarrish for prenatal care,” said one Creek Valley patient. “She also brought in a counselor. He was so warm and kind that I felt like I could actually talk to him.... I finally took a much-needed leap and scheduled myself to see him for therapy.... This was huge for me.”

Adams said combining a mental check-in with a physical checkup often helps overcome the negative stigma often associated with mental health care.

“There’s not something wrong with you because an integrated behaviorist is coming in to check in on you,” he said. “They’re making sure that you have all the resources that you need for yourself and your family.”

Creek Valley Health Clinic was awarded a third Northern Arizona Community Health Grant from Health First Foundation this year. That grant will support the clinic’s new nutrition program, which aims to increase access to healthy foods and nutrition information for residents with chronic health conditions.