Routt County Communities That Care coalition completes community action plan
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — In 2017, Northwest Colorado Health received a grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to implement the Communities That Care youth prevention framework in Routt County. The CTC framework, developed by the University of Washington over decades of research and collaboration with communities across the country, is identified as a promising evidence-based intervention to reduce youth problem behaviors and promote healthy development. The framework is largely successful because it focuses on community outcomes to prevent problems before they start.
Since 2017, parents, community members, schools and youth-serving agencies in Routt County have come together to identify the area’s most concerning health outcomes for youth, as well as the most prevalent risk and protective factors that contribute to problems like substance abuse, delinquency, violence and mental health problems. Over four years, this coalition has also reviewed existing local resources, analyzed gaps in service and identified strategies for positive community change. In December 2020, the coalition published its action plan for pursuing, evaluating and sustaining these strategies.
In summary, the coalition is focused on reducing alcohol and marijuana use among teens, as well as reducing self-harm behavior. Upon reviewing health and behavior data, coalition members see high rates of depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts, leading us to consider poor mental health as a mediating factor for higher substance use among youth.
One local risk factor is that many high schoolers do not consider regular substance use by teens as wrong. Another risk factor is that many also do not think their parents would disapprove of this behavior. On the other hand, teen involvement in school activities or community service is a valuable protective factor.
In October 2019, community members, including youth, chose strategies to address these risk and protective factors: creating a mass media campaign to influence positive youth norms; promoting positive youth development practices throughout the community; and recruiting and rewarding youth for participating in coalitions.
Unfortunately, the wake of the pandemic is expected to have intensified risk factors while diminishing existing protective factors. This may lead more youth to use substances to cope with worsening mental health.
Further, stressed out adults may find themselves in similar situations, leaving youth who are spending more time at home and online with fewer examples of healthy coping skills. Though delayed by the pandemic, several youth internship positions are currently open and accepting applications as part of Routt County’s action plan.
The coalition also voted to support the work of Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, and in August 2020, Grand Futures became the backbone agency for CTC. To read the coalition’s full community action plan, please visit grandfutures.org/programs. The living document uses community-level outcomes to measure progress toward goals and will be reviewed and updated periodically by the coalition.
The coalition will spend the next six months in the implementation and evaluation phase of CTC while waiting to hear whether Routt County will receive continued funding through 2026. To learn more or get involved, get in touch with Judy Komaromi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sarah Valentino is community education coordinator for the Grand Futures Prevention Coalition.
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