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Bipartisan bill would add medical school in Colorado, expand existing health care programs

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Sara Wilson

(Colorado Newsline) Colorado lawmakers want to establish a new college of osteopathic medicine at the University of Northern Colorado, supporters of a health care infrastructure bill announced Monday.

The bill would also expand existing health care worker education programs.

“We have an aging population and greater health care needs. We also had a lot of doctors and medical professionals retire early and burn out during the pandemic years — that, coupled with the increased need will help this new medical school thrive,” Gov. Jared Polis said at a press conference Monday at Denver’s Auraria campus.

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The new medical college would graduate about 150 doctors per year, Polis and UNC President Andy Feinstein said. It would have an estimated $1.4 billion economic impact in the area surrounding UNC, located in Greeley, over 20 years.

The bipartisan bill, which was set to be introduced Monday, would renew existing certificates of participation — a form of a lease-purchasing agreement, in this case for the state’s use of college facilities — that are set to expire in three years. It would make investments to four Colorado colleges and universities to increase their capacity to train future health care workers.

By 2026, Colorado will need about 10,000 more nurses to meet demand, according to the governor’s office. In his remarks, Feinstein said that 61 of the state’s 64 counties have a health care professional shortage.

Once it was clear that there was a need and that UNC was well positioned to meet it, we began our work in earnest.

– Andy Feinstein, president of UNC

“Once it was clear that there was a need and that UNC was well positioned to meet it, we began our work in earnest,” Feinstein said of the university’s work to open an osteopathic medical college. This year’s bill follows a 2021 feasibility study and a 2022 law that allows the school to offer the specialized degree.

Preventative medicine

Osteopathic doctors tend to practice a whole-person approach and focus on preventative medicine. They are more likely to practice primary care than medical doctors.

Other funds in the bill would increase capacity at existing health care programs through infrastructure projects at Metropolitan State University and Trinidad State College. Additionally, Colorado State University’s veterinary health program would get a boost.

The bill will be run by Democratic Rep. Mary Young of Greeley, Democratic Rep. Lindsay Daugherty of Arvada, Democratic Sen. Kyle Mullica of Thornton, and Republican Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer of Weld County.

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