Behavioral health rose to the top of priority health concerns for Yampa Valley residents in a recent survey, and accompanying data showed the problem could be even worse in Moffat County.
The Community Health Needs Assessment is conducted every three years, led by the Health Partnership Serving Northwest Colorado, along with other health and human services agencies in Moffat and Routt counties.
In 2022, the needs assessment was completed using a combination of information from community meetings, a community health survey, and public health and socioeconomic data. The purpose of the assessment is to identify the most important health issues, unhealthy behaviors and factors most important to personal health in the Yampa Valley.
Five key strengths were identified in the assessment, including a strong sense of community, cross-sector collaborations, access to open spaces, services for the elderly, and improvements in access to care.
A total of 1,167 Yampa Valley community members completed the survey in February, with 38% of respondents living in Moffat County and 82% living in Yampa Valley full-time, year-round.
Of the respondents, 67% were women and 41% said they raise children in the Yampa Valley. Additionally, 22% identified as LGBTQ+ and 16% as Black, Indigenous or of color, while 13% were Latinx or Hispanic.
Priority issues are identified by comparing community health concerns and a combination of data. Yampa Valley residents identified the top two priorities as behavioral health and access to culturally and language appropriate care.
Community members reported the four worst health issues in Yampa Valley as substance and drug abuse (76% in Moffat County and 63% in Yampa Valley), poor mental health ( 50% in Moffat, 53% in Yampa Valley), suicide and suicidal tendencies (47% Moffat, 52% Yampa Valley), and social isolation (17% Moffat, 22% Yampa Valley).
The top two risky behaviors identified by community members included substance and drug abuse (56%) and alcohol abuse or misuse (46%), with the drugs of greatest concern being opioids (68%), alcohol (56%), amphetamines (49%). %) and methamphetamines (45%).
One of the most important findings from the community health needs assessment was that the rate of drug overdose emergency room use was significantly higher in Moffat County at 227.5 per 100,000 population than it was. only was in Colorado at 187.3 per 100,000 population.
Additionally, mental health was the #1 reason for hospitalizations in Moffat County from 2018 to 2020, with 3,273 cases, which was significantly higher than the number of mental health hospitalizations in the region (2,352) and in the state (2,837).
Overall, Moffat County has lower hospitalization rates for heart disease, heart failure, diabetes, injuries, strokes, and suicide attempts compared to Colorado. However, Health Partnership executive director Brittney Wilburn said that often when patients are admitted for other reasons, there is an underlying behavioral health issue.
Across the region, there has also been an increase in the percentage of residents who reported needing mental health care but not getting it, from 9.1% in 2015 to 15.3% in 2021. The mental health resident-to-provider ratio was also lower in Moffat County than it was statewide at 510:1 for Moffat County versus 250:1 for Colorado.
Other key health factors identified by the assessment were more expensive access to food in the region, rising housing costs in the Yampa Valley, difficulties in finding well-paying jobs, and lack of regional public transport, making it difficult for some people living in outlying communities to meet their basic needs.
Now that the information has been collected, the Health Partnership is working to present the information to community members and partner organizations.
Wilburn said the partnership is also for behavioral health providers to build a stronger network, understand who has more capacity, and see if there are opportunities to increase Medicaid client acceptance.
Several local providers, including Northwest Colorado Health, UCHealth, and Memorial Regional Hospital, are developing plans to address behavioral health needs, and the information is available for Moffat County Public Health to use in its health action plan. community.