Grand Futures: Routt County teens by the numbers
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Every two years, middle and high schoolers in Routt County participate in an extensive state-wide survey about their health behaviors, environments and safety. The Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, conducted in odd-numbered years, is supported by several state departments, including Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Colorado Department of Education.
Students in Routt last took this survey in fall 2019. Regional reports were released nearly a year later and are widely used to make decisions about local health priorities and resources. Generally, school-level data is not made public to protect the privacy of students. Instead, Grand Futures Prevention Coalition is using combined data to create a county-level high school profile.
We believe a well-educated community is an important foundation for furthering our mission of preventing youth and young adult substance abuse and our vision of a community in which positive lifestyle choices are the norm.
Here are some 2019 survey statistics that our coalition’s data team, and partners will be monitoring.
• 1 in 6 high school students report binge drinking (4 or more drinks for females, 5 or more drinks for males, within a couple of hours) on one or more of the past 30 days — compare to 1 in 7 in Colorado
• 1 in 9 report driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol in the past 30 days — compare to 1 in 17 in Colorado
• 1 in 10 report smoking cigarettes at least once in the past 30 days — compare to 1 in 18 in Colorado
• 1 in 5 report using marijuana at least once in the past 30 days — same as 1 in 5 in Colorado
• 1 in 4 report hurting themselves without wanting to die in the past 12 months, such as cutting or burning themselves — compare to 1 in 5 in Colorado
On the positive side, 85% of students participated in extracurricular activities — compared to 67% in Colorado — and 76% said they have an adult they could go to for help with a serious problem — 72% in Colorado. Further data shows that students are aware of the risks of substance use, doing well academically, and that parents and guardians are managing their households well.
One of the limitations of this data is that it doesn’t account for changes since the pandemic. Our local culture’s favorable attitudes toward alcohol and substance use, even before COVID-19, puts our young people at risk. Poor mental health (enhanced by social isolation) adds to this risk, as many people self-medicate with alcohol, marijuana or other substances.
Though the full HKCS will not be conducted again until fall 2021, local organizations and schools have observed a decline in many of the supports that students experienced before, from social clubs to academics to stable family financials. Even with vaccinations and a return to “normal” in sight, the cascade of 2020 may see Routt County youth more at risk than ever.
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Peak Health Alliance, a health care purchasing cooperative created in Summit County in 2018 after it had one of the highest average health care costs in the nation, is looking to expand to Routt County.