Rhodes, who furthered local work on substance abuse, steps down from Community Health Partnership
Rhodes to focus on foundation she started after losing brother to opioid crisis
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Mara Rhodes announced she is stepping away from her position as regional wellness connector with the Northwest Colorado Community Health Partnership in order to further develop her nonprofit work with the Mark McManus Foundation.
“Insurance companies typically don’t pay our longer stints at physical therapy, a visit to a chiropractor, a visit to an acupuncture doctor or a visit to a naturopathic medicine doctor,” Rhodes said. “They don’t pay for 10 sessions of yoga to strengthen your core to help with your lower back pain, or a trip to the Pilates studio to really work on muscle memory, and most people can’t see a therapist because they can’t get in, or they can’t pay for it. Most behavioral health therapists in town don’t even take insurance.”
Rhodes, who co-founded the Rx Task Force in Steamboat, is hoping the Mark McManus Foundation can play a role in helping to fund the agencies in order to open their services to a wider range of people who may not be able to afford them.
To do that, she plans to pilot a program, much like the More PT, Less Rx program she helped start with UCHealth SportsMed Clinic, to create a community fund to help people pay for well-being options of their choice.
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“I feel like the work of the Rx Task Force, and the work of all the seminars we’ve done, has gotten people talking about the benefits of turning internally and looking at what’s happening in their body, what’s happening in their mind,” Rhodes said. “I think people are recognizing that what they necessarily need might not just be in a pill form, but what they want outside of a pill form might not be something they can pay for.”
Rhodes, who also founded the Mark McManus Foundation after losing her brother to the opioid epidemic, was instrumental in starting the Rx Task Force in 2015, which hosted a lunch and learn series that was aimed at educating people in the community about substance use disorder. The series brought in police, firefighters, experts in the opioid crises and medical professionals to lead the hour-long, lunchtime lecture series.
“People started asking our incredible physicians, in the community and throughout Northwest Colorado, a lot of questions that they weren’t necessarily asking before,” Rhodes said. “Physicians were answering and providing them feedback, and dialogue was happening. I don’t think that that was necessarily happening as much before, and I don’t want to say that was because of me. Everybody was thinking a lot of the same things and coming to the table, and we were talking about it. Then we were incorporating it into our personal lives and into our work at our jobs.”
Rhodes said the past several years have been a period of immense transformation for Northwest Colorado’s public health network. She said she is proud to have collaborated with so many advocates determined to further awareness, education and access to services for substance use disorder and mental health crises.
“I think, before the task force, people looked at it like, ‘Well, I don’t know anyone with addiction, so it’s not something I need to learn about,'” she said. “
As a task force, a health partnership and public health agency, however, Rhodes was able to collaborate with many different people and agencies to create a conversation so people understood the relationship between trauma, behavioral health and substance use disorder.
“If people were listening, and if they were digesting that information, then we succeeded,” she said. “We got people to understand that substance use disorder isn’t a choice.”
Rhodes joined the Health Partnership as the Rx Task Force Regional Coordinator in 2017 and helped spread the work of that organization from Routt County, where it started, across Northern Colorado.
“She’s been an amazing asset to this community and to the strategic direction of the health partnership. She will be missed for sure,” said Stephanie Monahan, executive director of the health partnership. “I know, based on the relationship that we have, we will continue to be good partners moving forward. I’m excited to work with her as she follows her passion to work on wraparound services for people who are struggling with substance use disorder.”
Monahan said when the Rx Task Force came under the umbrella of the Health partnership, Rhodes became a champion.
“She was a leader for that effort, as well as our connect to substance use disorder prevention throughout the region,” Monahan said.
In Routt County, Rhodes managed a lot of the partnership’s efforts for coordinating training and “really working to continue to elevate the awareness around substance use disorder.”
Monahan said Jane Davis, the stigma reduction coordinator, will take over many of Rhodes’ responsibilities moving forward.
“I would just say that we’re excited to work with Mara in her new role and her new capacity to achieve even more success together in this new chapter,” Monahan said. “We’re really excited about that, and I think she is, too.”
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