Colorado lawmakers work to strengthen pipeline of geriatric providers

Colorado’s ability to provide care to its nation-leading elderly population is “severely lacking,” according to Sen. Jessie Danielson (D – Lakewood), the sponsor of a new bill to fortify the state’s geriatric provider pipeline.

Senate Bill 189 would create the Multidisciplinary Geriatric Provider Pipeline program at the University of Colorado Anschutz to provide a robust training program to students in hopes of growing the workforce. The program would select graduate students from across the state to participate in the program.

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The bill would also establish a geriatric training executive advisory committee to oversee the training program and facilitate collaboration among different health care silos. The bill is still in the early stages and awaits a vote from the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

The advisory council’s role is outlined in the bill as follows:

  • “Set the program’s standards for training and delivery of medical care to the most frail and medically complex, costly, and compromised older Coloradans;
  • Collaborate with participating institutions of higher education across Colorado to select clinical graduate students who have an interest in geriatric care to participate in the program;
  • Analyze data collected by the program;
  • Build relationships, collaborate, and create a multidisciplinary team that provides opportunities for clinicians to work together in teams to better understand the roles of each discipline and better place clinical graduate students for experiential training opportunities; other
  • Coordinate with graduates of the program for opportunities to become trainers to future clinical graduate students once practicing in the graduate’s field of study.”

Danielson and her co-prime bill sponsor, Sen. Brittany Pettersen (D – Lakewood), both represent parts of Jefferson County—the most rapidly aging county in the state.

When introducing the bill to the committee on Monday, Danielson said each existing geriatric provider in the state would have to take on thousands of patients in order to meet the state’s current need for such care.

The Colorado Health Institute projects the state’s older population to double by 2050, reaching 1.7 million.

“[Colorado] is the second most rapidly growing aging population in the country, and so each small step that we can take forward to provide direct services for older Coloradans improves their chance of having an independent life with dignity as long as they can in their own homes with quality care and services provision,” said Danielson. “One piece of this is increasing the number of geriatric medical providers.”

Danielson described the legislation as a continuation of a successful bill she sponsored last year, SB 158. This bill incentivized recent medical school graduates specializing in geriatric care to practice in Colorado by providing them $400,000 in loan forgiveness if they did so.

“I’ve heard consistently throughout my career how bad it is out there for seniors in having access to the care that they need, especially in rural Colorado,” said Pettersen. “But I was unaware that we have such a small amount [of support for them] that’s highlighted [in current statute]. We need to be doing a lot more. This is the first step in trying to build this pipeline and making sure that people have the training they need, but we have a lot more work to do.”

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