Family Health West’s Colorado Canyons Hospital and Medical Center is expanding its pediatric therapy program and recently launched the region’s only autism treatment facility for children.

After opening a new $8 million medical center at the hospital late last summer, Family Health West was able to move its adult therapy program to the new site, freeing up space at 551 Kokopelli Blvd. to expand the pediatric rehabilitation program and open a facility to aid autism patients and their families.

“It was an easy commitment for us,” said Dr. Korrey Klein, Family Health West president and CEO.

After remodeling two of the units on Kokopelli Boulevard, just south of Interstate 70 in Fruita, the pediatric therapy department moved into the 6,300-square-foot space opened up by the adult rehabilitation center move. This left room for the Autism Group — known as TAG — to have its own space.

The pediatric therapy center now has two large gyms, a custom sensory gym, private spaces and a rock climbing wall, among other features.

“This almost doubled our size of what the pediatric space used to be,” said William Cummins, Family Health West associate vice president of business development.

The medical center celebrated the opening of the facilities with an open house last week.

In opening a space for the Autism Group, Family Health West is hoping to fill a need in western Colorado for autism treatment services.

The center is geared to assist patients from diagnosis up through age 18, helping those who struggle to speak, have behavior issues and difficulty with basic life skills.

Bret Mixon, a board-certified behavior analyst and speech therapist for Family Health West, said many children are diagnosed with autism at around age 3.

Mixon will head up the Autism Group and will offer group sessions as one way for patients to build social skills.

The center also includes four observation areas where parents can look in on their child’s treatment from behind a two-way mirror so they aren’t a distraction during a session.

“We’re not only helping parents, we’re helping the kid integrate as best they can into their world,” Klein said.

Mixon has been with Family Health West for just over two years and said he has regularly visited patients at their homes. This new center will allow him to see more patients.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one out of every 59 children are on the autism spectrum, but Mixon said some families have to wait up to 18 months to receive treatment. Access is particularly tough outside of big cities, Mixon said.

Many autism treatment centers are independent of large medical facilities and often fail within a few years because of funding, Mixon said.

“This is a rare opportunity,” Mixon said.

Since the open house last week, the Autism Group’s office has received a large number of calls from families seeking treatment, Mixon noted. As a whole, pediatric rehab care has grown over the years as well.

“The number of kids we’ve seen has exponentially exploded,” Mixon said.

Cummins believes the programming at Family Health West for pediatric rehab and autism is unique nationwide.

Klein noted that the focus of the pediatric and autism programs will be to help the children they already take care of, children waiting for services and then find children who need help sooner.

“Our hospital has focused on rehab for so long,” Klein said. “This has fit in nicely.”

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