AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY TO HEALTH CARE ADVOCACY
Jim Garcia had never imagined that his career would lead him to the world of health care policy. As a dedicated staff member for Democratic U.S. Senator Tim Wirth, his primary focus had always been on policy issues related to health care. However, one thing was clear – he was passionate about his work and serving the community.
A man of faith, Garcia was inspired by the pastor at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, who brought to his attention that members of the parish community, as well as the broader community, didn’t have access to basic medical, dental, and mental health services. Feeling compelled to take action rather than just study the issue, Garcia volunteered to lead the effort to establish a clinic.
When Senator Wirth chose not to seek reelection in 1993, Garcia saw it as a sign to dedicate his full time and energy to solving this issue. “I had no experience or background in health care,” said Garcia. “I only had the public policy experience, which was very high level. I leaned heavily on my colleagues in the health care arena to advise me on what it would take to open and sustain a clinic.” Relying almost exclusively on volunteer labor to complete the renovation of a little house on Kalamath Street, Clinica Tepeyac (later renamed Tepeyac Community Health Center) opened to the public in the fall of 1995.
MEETING THE RISING DEMAND
Demand for services at Tepeyac quickly exceeded the capacity of the original clinic. When an opportunity arose to reopen a former Denver Health clinic in the Globeville neighborhood, Garcia eagerly seized it. The Globeville and Elyria Swansea (GES) neighborhoods in Denver had a long history of being underserved, dating back to their development in the 1880s around the smelting industry, railroad yards, and meat-packing plants. Today, GES is an industrial neighborhood surrounded by warehouses, divided by a highway, and marked by ongoing construction projects that have provided little direct benefit to residents. Despite these challenges, GES stands as a proud working-class neighborhood with a predominantly Latino, Spanish-speaking population.
TEPEYAC’S 28 YEARS OF SERVICE
Now in its 28th year, Tepeyac Community Health Center offers a range of integrated services, including medical, behavioral health, and comprehensive dental care, including cleanings and dental procedures. Tepeyac recently opened a full-service pharmacy, serving both its patients and residents from the surrounding neighborhoods.
A TRANSFORMATIVE PARTNERSHIP WITH DELTA DENTAL OF COLORADO FOUNDATION
Jim Garcia, who has been deeply involved with Tepeyac since its inception, officially became its CEO in 2011. This allowed him to focus on building strong community partnerships to better serve their clients.
During his tenure, Garcia has forged a valuable and transformative partnership with the Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation (DDCOF). In 2023, Tepeyac completed the construction of its new health center, thanks in part to a low-interest loan from DDCOF. This mission-related investment (MRI) helped build and equip the new 24,500-square-foot facility, featuring a state-of-the-art dental suite with six operatories. Located at the corner of 48th Avenue and Vine Street in the Elyria-Swansea neighborhood, Tepeyac Community Health Center now coexists with 150 units of affordable housing and a fresh food market, all part of a comprehensive strategy to meet community needs and combat gentrification.
SERVING A DIVERSE COMMUNITY
Today, patients from 31 different zip codes travel to Tepeyac for its unique and inclusive approach to health care. The clinic’s entire clinical staff speaks Spanish to better serve the 85% of patients who primarily speak Spanish. Tepeyac’s sliding fee scale ensures access to health care for nearly 70% of its patients who don’t have health insurance.
As Tepeyac continues to expand its capacity to serve the community, they remain focused on their mission “to inspire health, wellbeing, and humanity in its community, through all of life’s stages.” To learn more about DDCOF’s MRIs, visit https://deltadentalcofoundation.org/our-work/our-investments/oral-health-capital-loan/.