Community input needed at health assessment meetings
February survey shows drug use, mental health, suicide remain top concerns
Every three years, Yampa Valley residents are asked to participate in a survey and input sessions to let community health care leaders and planners know where residents see or are experiencing gaps in care.
The communitywide needs assessment is meant to determine the valley’s current most important health issues, most risky or unhealthy behaviors, and factors most important for personal and community health.
The assessment process can lead to important local health care improvements. As some examples, UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center and the Craig-Scheckman Family Foundation committed financial support for expansion of Routt County school-based behavioral health support services after the 2016 assessment. YVMC expanded specialized cancer scanning services at UCHealth Jan Bishop Cancer Center in Steamboat Springs after the 2019 report.
This year’s Yampa Valley Community Health Needs Assessment is off to a strong start with 1,167 survey responses submitted in February, compared to some 700 responses during the previous study in 2019, said Brittney Wilburn, executive director at The Health Partnership, non profit that is leading the assessment. Denver-based health care research and consulting firm Health Management Associates in helping with the process, which should be complete by early June.
The 2022 final assessment will be used to identify health priorities and to support the development of updated Community Health Improvement Plans in Routt and Moffat counties. As just one example based on the 2019 needs assessment report, YVMC prioritized for action: access to care, mental and behavioral health, substance use disorder, and specialty care services including cardiovascular health, cancer and obesity.
The current assessment update for the two counties encompasses a four-part process: socioeconomic demographics, public health data, community survey and community meetings, Wilburn explained.
At a community meeting hosted at Old Town Hot Springs on Wednesday, the small room was filled with energetic local professionals ranging from county and nonprofit employees, to a yoga studio owner, to a public health consultant who lives in Routt County.
Wilburn stressed that the survey information presented during public input meetings is very preliminary and part of the larger process. More attendance at community input meetings is requested to help with next steps, she said.
Survey respondents from both Routt and Moffat counties agreed the three worst health problems in the Yampa Valley include, from one to three, substance and drug use, poor mental health, and suicide and the risk of suicide. Specifically, 76% of respondents in Moffat County listed substance and drug use as the worst health issue, along with 63% in Routt. Other regional health problems highlighted include social isolation, cancer of all types, vaccine/preventable health issues, and aging-related problems.
Respondents listed the top five most important factors for a healthy local community as, from one to five, good paying jobs with livable wages, clean water and environment, affordable housing, good schools and access to primary care.
Overall, 69% of respondents said they have experienced barriers to receiving health care in the area, and some of those contributing reasons include high out-of-pocket costs, need of a service not offered in the community, or need for evening or weekend hours for care.
The survey showed the top three factors that respondents would like to see more of in the Yampa Valley, including affordable housing (listed by 50% of respondents), good paying jobs and livable wages (39%) and access to mental health and substance use treatment (30%).
When considering community strengths, the survey showed four areas that may represent potential gaps in services: mutual trust and respect among community members to achieve shared community goals, broad variety of affordable health care services, economic opportunity and adequate social services.
The Health Partnership is working with other agencies to create a community dashboard to measure progress on some health outcomes, including education preparedness in early years of life, education preparedness for a future career, financial stability of an individual or family, health of an individual, and individual aging well.
Routt County Public Health also provided some high-level data summary information during the presentation. Routt County had a “substantially lower” rate of suicide from 2016 to 2020 than the state average, according to public health data. Routt County had lower rates of hospitalizations for mental health, heart disease and heart failure compared to the state average from 2018 to 2020. The county had a 7% increase in individuals diagnosed with diabetes from 2016 to 2020, an increase from 2% to 9%, which compares to the state average of 7%.
Wilburn encouraged a wide variety of residents to attend a forthcoming community input meeting, which include virtual, South Routt County and Spanish-language meeting options from March 29 to April 13.
“We want to hear from the community about their ideas on the data and how we can meaningfully use the data to inform decisions in the future,” Wilburn said.
The survey is a joint effort by The Health Partnership, UCHealth, Northwest Colorado Health, Routt County Public Health, Memorial Regional Health and Routt County United Way.
For questions, email email@example.com.
Residents in the Yampa Valley can sign up on The Health Partnership website at thehealthpartnership.org/CHNA to attend an online input session or in-person meeting, or just show up for in-person meetings. The meetings include:
– Two virtual community discussions in English, 2-3:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 29, and 6:30-8 p.m. Wednesday, April 13
– Virtual meeting in Spanish, noon-1 p.m., Tuesday, April 12
– In person 6-7:30 p.m., Thursday, April 7 at South Routt Community Center, 227 Dodge Ave. in Oak Creek
To reach Suzie Romig, call 970-871-4205 or email sromig@SteamboatPilot.com.
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