Public health director role transitions from Northwest Colorado Health to county
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Kari Ladrow’s new role as public health director for Routt and Moffat counties will bring added oversight and strategic vision, said Dan Weinheimer, Routt County deputy manager.
The position was previously housed at Northwest Colorado Health, where Ladrow served as public health director until April.
The change, supported with consultation from the state, is part of Colorado’s public health transformation process and an effort to better align the county programs with statewide goals, according to a news release.
Growing up overseas as her parents worked as civil service employees of the military, Ladrow came to Colorado when her father was stationed at Fort Carson.
She received a master’s degree in social work from Colorado State University and is a licensed clinical social worker with more than 18 years of experience in the field of health care.
For nine years, Ladrow was regional director of case management for HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospitals — now Encompass Health — and responsible for oversight of case management departments and patient experience at 16 hospitals in six western states, including Colorado.
Ladrow spent about nine years before that working for The Resource Exchange, a community board that provides services for children and adults with developmental disabilities.
She fell in love with Steamboat Springs while visiting her husband’s family, and Ladrow said she and her husband decided it was a place where they wanted to settle and raise a family. They have two daughters, ages 8 and 11.
Employing a director at the county level, said Weinheimer, brings clarification to funding mechanisms for the county as the designated public health agency and as the entity responsible for oversight.
With a 60/40 split arrangement with Moffat County, Ladrow will divide her time between the two counties. Ladrow is technically a Routt County employee contracted by Moffat County.
Both counties will maintain a separate Board of Health and will be able to make independent decisions regarding programing and services under their jurisdiction.
“We are excited about the opportunity to bring public health in house and fully embrace our role as the Board of Health in supporting a healthy community,” said Beth Melton, chair of Routt County Board of Commissioners, in the release. “The cooperative staffing relationship between Routt and Moffat counties with support from Northwest Colorado Health will serve our communities well.”
The decision to partner with Moffat, said Weinheimer, is the most efficient use of resources and makes sense given existing overlap in programs.
“We are thrilled to share the director with Routt County,” said Moffat County Commissioner Don Cook in the release. “The counties have figured out that working together is far more cost effective and provides a high service level that is an advantage for residents of both counties.”
The county will continue to partner with Northwest Colorado Health to provide numerous services, such as immunizations and maternal and child health-focused outreach and education.
The county isn’t looking to get into the business of providing health-related services, Weinheimer noted.
Regarding provision of services, “Public health is not health care,” said Ladrow — it’s developing and carrying out strategies to improve health outcomes across a community.
And it’s about prevention.
While investments in prevention can result in huge returns, those returns may take time, she said.
Ladrow’s role is now “chief health strategist,” Weinheimer said, in collecting and applying data in a way that has a “positive impact on the largest number of people.”
Under the Public Health Act of 2008, a statewide restructuring set in place a requirement for local public health agencies to conduct community assessments every five years and subsequent strategic plans to address the most pressing needs.
In about two months, Routt County will wrap up the most recent community health assessment.
So far, they are focusing on two categories: mental health care and physical security and safety.
Mental health care has long been identified as an area in need for better access to care, Ladrow and Weinheimer noted, while the physical security and safety category is intentionally broad to look at everything from car accidents to West Nile virus to child abuse.
Both said it is too soon to say what impacts they expect in the region after the state’s announced on June 21 a change in emergency mental health contractors from Mind Springs Health to Rocky Mountain Health Plans.
Ladrow said she is continuing much of the work she was doing with Northwest Colorado Health to identify community health issues and partnering with other agencies to support healthy outcomes.
“I really believe in collaborative and effective partnerships that utilize a strategic plan,” she said. “I’m excited to continue working as a community to develop a thoughtful and strategic plan to improve health outcomes.”
Stephanie Einfeld, CEO of Northwest Colorado Health stated in the news release, “We have a longstanding history of providing public health services in our counties, and we are proud of the foundation we have laid. We are pleased to be working with the counties to make sure that community needs are met. Our mission remains our priority and we look forward to continuing to offer prevention services throughout Northwest Colorado.”
National rankings can give the perception that everyone in a place like Routt County “is healthy and has access to recreation,” Ladrow said. “But we have a lot of people in our communities who are struggling. And there’s more we can do to work together and partner more effectively.”
Weinheimer said he’s already spent time working closely with Ladrow and trusts her abilities and connection to the area.
He said he’s excited for an opportunity to have a more active role along with an emphasis on collaboration and a growing network of community partners.
“We are not here to solve these challenges in a vacuum by ourselves,” Weinheimer said.
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