In the year and a half since it opened, Bella Natural Women’s Care, a women’s clinic run in full alignment with Catholic teaching, has served the needs of some 1,700 women in Denver, and it has no intention of slowing down.
By the end of 2016, Bella will begin providing services for families, and new clinics will open in Northeast Denver and Lafayette. The expansion announcement was made at the health care center’s annual Summer Soirée on June 23.
Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila and former Colorado Lieutenant Governor Jane Norton participated in the event, along with benefactors and women who have received care from the clinic. They spoke about the impact Bella has had on them and the community.
“It was a completely different experience,” Dianna Miller said, recalling her time at Bella.
“Just the difference in how they see your body,” she explained to CNA, “instead of trying to cure things, they’re working with you and you don’t feel like anything is broken or wrong.”
Miller has four children. When Bella first opened, she transferred her medical services for her last pregnancy to the new health care center. Miller said everyone was “very respectful of the human body and women in general.”
Bella Natural Women’s Care opened in December 2014 as a non-profit medical practice in Denver, Colo., aiming to provide health care for all women, from adolescence through menopause and beyond.
The health care center was founded by mother-daughter duo Dede Chism and Abby Sinnett, both of whom are nurse practitioners. The hope was to create a holistic approach to caring for women in mind, body, and spirit, dealing with a full range of issues from infertility to weight loss.
The practice is designed to reflect Church teaching on health care and women’s issues, although it attracts non-Catholics as well, particularly those drawn to the natural and scientific approach that it offers to care.
“Honestly, we’re not trying to compete so much with Planned Parenthood as we are just trying to provide excellent care for all women. This is what all of us deserve,” Chism told CNA.
“My agenda is to take great care of women and children, and their families,” she said, adding that this may lead people to choose Bella over Planned Parenthood because “patients will desire true health care.”
The clinic specializes in nearly every area of women’s health, including obstetrics, annual exams, gynecology, infertility treatment, menopause care, and even abortion pill reversal through “conventional and natural methods in line with Church teaching.”
“I’m going to help to hopefully expand that to more primary care and family care, so we can start seeing more babies, children and families,” Dr. Sarah Hodack, Bella’s new family medicine physician, said.
In October, Bella will add family care under its list of services.
Rachel Baertlein, another patient at Bella and a nurse at Swedish Medical Center, described the atmosphere of the clinic as comfortable.
“When you go to the doctor, it’s very sterile often times and very cold. You feel very uncomfortable,” she said, “going to Bella is warm and inviting and it feels like home in a lot of ways.”
Women are provided with linen instead of paper on their examination tables. A spacious waiting room reflects the at-home feel of a living room, complete with comfy couches, a cozy fireplace and toys for kids to play with. The walls are painted in warm tones, and there is a Chapel with the Blessed Sacrament and a statue of the pregnant Virgin Mother.
Though Bella is faith-based, Baertlein said she was surprised to see that a lot of Bella’s patients are not Catholic.
“I don’t know how they stumble upon Bella, but they find that they’re cared for well and that they’re loved there,” she said.
The clinic has had 8,800 encounters with women from all walks of life. Women are never refused care, as 36 percent of care is to non-insured or under-insured patients, and $62,000 of free care has been given to those in need.
Before the June 23 soirée, Aquila celebrated Mass for the clinic at St. Louis Catholic Church, just down the street from Bella.
“The Gospel reading for us today is not one of the easier ones that Jesus preaches,” he said.
In Matthew chapter seven, Jesus tells the disciples, “not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven. Only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”
Aquila credited Bella’s growth to founders Chism and Sinnett saying ‘yes’ to the will of God. He said they built their apostolate on rock, like the wise man, and trusted in God though they faced many challenges and doubts.
“When one looks at the fruit that has been born and come out of Bella, one can see it is of the Lord. It is the work of the Spirit.”
In the midst of darkness and the culture of death today, the archbishop said, “we must be those who point to the truth of life no matter what the cost, and who share that life with others.”
He later told CNA that Bella is a tremendous witness to the culture of life, and he “is joy-filled that it is growing so much.”
The Summer Soirée raised more than $125,000 for the mission of Bella Natural Women’s Care.