Insurer announces $30 million donation

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Pat Riddell
Phil Weiser

Rocky Mountain Health Plans will contribute $30 million to fund a variety of efforts across Western Colorado and the remainder of the state.

Patrick Gordon, chief executive officer of Rocky Mountain Health Plans, announced the donation at an event outside the offices of the Grand Junction-based insurer.

The contribution includes $25 million for the Rocky Mountain Health Foundation and $5 million to establish the Healthy Youth/Strong Colorado Fund in partnership with the Colorado attorney general’s office.

Patrick Gordon, chief executive officer of Rocky Mountain Health Plans, announces a $30 million donation to fund a range of efforts on the West Slope and remainder of Colorado. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

The donation follows a $50 million payout from a lawsuit against the federal government seeking unpaid funds from an  Affordable Care Act program.

Gordon said the contribution will fund everything from efforts to diversify the health care work force to providing mental health support and other services to youth.

“This donation reflects Rocky Mountain Health Plans’ long-standing commitment in Colorado,” he said. “We are honored to work with Colorado’s leaders to address the urgent challenges we face, such as the need for better access to behavioral health care. We are committed to creating opportunities for all Coloradans to achieve their full potential.”

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser praised what he called an “extraordinary” contribution. “This is going to be a big deal.”

The Rocky Mountain Health Foundation was established in 2017 when UnitedHealth Group purchased Rocky Mountain Health Plans and set aside $38 million to promote the health and well-being of people in 22 Western Slope counties. A board of representatives from across the region oversees what’s now an independent foundation. Since 2017, the foundation has awarded 284 grants worth a total of more than $3.2 million. The foundation also funds a smoking cessation program for pregnant women.

Pat Riddell, chairwoman of the foundation board, said the $25 million donation will increase the assets of the foundation and, in turn, the amount awarded each year in grants. “That’s awesome. I’m so excited.”

Among other things, funding will promote science, technology, engineering and math education among women and people of color to diversify the health care work force as well as support programs and services that improve conditions for marginalized, socially or economically disadvantaged people.

“The foundation is very grateful for this donation,” Riddell said.

The  $5 million contribution to create the Healthy Youth/Strong Colorado Fund will include funding for the Colorado Youth Corps Association, Boys & Girls Clubs of Colorado and suicide prevention programs in schools.

Weiser said funding will support youth in a variety of ways while also addressing mental health issues and suicide, a leading cause of death for teenagers.

That builds on Safe2Tell, a program operated by the attorney general’s office to provide a tool for anonymous reports of perceived threats to Colorado youth  —whether that’s a potential school shooting or suicide attempt.

A total of $1.8 million will go to three youth corps, including the Western Colorado Conservation Corps based in Grand Junction.

Jeff Roberts, director of the WCCC, said the organization provides employment and training to youth and young adults who work on a variety of land improvement projects.