Colorado Health Foundation CEO visits Steamboat
Steamboat Springs — Members of the nonprofit Colorado Health Foundation made their way through Steamboat Springs during the week as part of a Mountain Listening Tour.
The tour was a way for new foundation president and CEO Karen McNeil-Miller to hear from residents and decision makers about the assets and barriers surrounding health in mountain communities.
“It was important for me to get out into the state and visit communities as soon as possible,” said McNeil-Miller during an intimate gathering with primarily healthcare and social services professionals at Rollingstone Respite House on Tuesday.
Formed in 1995 as a nonprofit hospital system and later becoming a health improvement organization, Colorado Health Foundation aims to make Colorado the healthiest state possible through the use of grantmaking, public policy, advocacy and other efforts.
Foundation members reviewed Routt County data on population, income, insurance rates and other factors before the event.
“These data only tell me so much, so I need to talk to people,” said McNeil-Miller, who also traveled to events in Frisco, Fairplay, Salida, Leadville, Edwards and Granby during the three-day tour.
Attendees to the evening event said the assets supporting healthcare access in Routt County included great collaboration between agencies, a strong hospital and strong mental health facility and physical access to primary care doctors.
A major barrier to accessing care that the group discussed was a growing population of people whose income is too high to qualify for public assistance, yet too low to be self-sufficient in an area with a high cost of living.
Statistics don’t often illustrate the difference between Steamboat and the outlying areas of the county, several attendees said.
When struggling to make ends meet financially, focusing on healthy eating and exercise can fall lower on the priority list, said Kate Nowak, executive director of Routt County United Way.
Attendees also pointed to substance abuse and family stress as issues affecting local families.
After listening to concerns of the group, McNeil-Miller said that sustainable solutions to such problems facing Routt County must be community-based, and encouraged the group to find their own solutions, which the Colorado Health Foundation could then support.
“The heavy lift has to be done by you, and then we’re willing to help,” McNeil-Miller said.
The foundation handed out materials and disposable cameras they hope will be used to document the assets and barriers to achieving good health in Routt County.
Health-related stories and photos can be shared with the foundation using #HealthiestCO.
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