Ongoing dental and mental health issues in Moffat County serve as reminder that more still needs to be done to help ourselves
Worthwhile efforts by separate Moffat County groups underscore the continued need for community outreach and education on two significant public health issues.
Statistics reveal that both dental health and mental health issues continue to be a source of concern for the community, and particularly for some of its youngest members. And while work by groups like the Northwest Colorado Dental Coalition and Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide, among others, provides a foundation for community-wide efforts to address the problems, more widespread buy-in is needed if we hope to see the type of progress residents deserve.
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, which in Moffat County provides an opportunity to re-examine local oral health issues facing our kids. That examination, local experts say, shows that despite a positive increase in available oral health resources, education about preventative care still is severely lacking.
For example, many local families simply don’t know they should be taking their children to the dentist by the child’s second birthday — at the very latest. That fact is borne out by survey statistics that have revealed Moffat County is below the state average when it comes to the prevalence of third-graders with a history of cavities as well as the percent of third-graders with untreated tooth decay. During a recent oral health screening of Moffat County elementary and middle school students, only 17 percent of the 1,300 children said they had a dentist who they saw regularly.
Those numbers are alarming, especially considering the known long-term effects of oral health on a person’s overall well being. Further, preventative and regular dental checkups often are covered in full by both private insurance carriers as well as families on Medicaid.
Local groups and dental practices like the Northwest Colorado Dental Coalition have made positive strides toward providing dental health resources for Moffat County and Craig, but the efforts must continue. We hope February’s national Dental Health Month provides the impetus for many families here to take proactive steps toward addressing their own oral health.
On the other end of the health spectrum is suicide, which is anything but a new issue for Northwest Colorado. Unfortunately, data continue to show how its prevalence here far outpaces suicide rates elsewhere in the state. Moffat County’s suicide rate in teens ages 15 to 19 from 2005 to 2009 was four times higher per capita than the state average. The local suicide rate for people of all ages during that same time period was twice as high here than it was across Colorado.
It’s worth noting that Colorado has the sixth-highest suicide rate in the country, and one that jumped by 38 percent from 2000 to 2010. Throughout the past 10 years, 53 residents in Moffat and Routt counties have taken their own lives, making suicide a leading cause of death here.
The segment of the population most at risk for suicide is men between 25 and 55, which represents nearly half of Moffat County’s total population. Key to addressing mental health issues, particularly those like depression that could trigger suicidal tendencies, is education and awareness.
Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide, or R.E.P.S., deserves kudos for its efforts to meet that challenge head on. R.E.P.S. trains groups in Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training to help teach folks how to recognize the warning signs of suicide and how to get help to that person. R.E.P.S. also recently started a program in which it trains volunteers to stay with people admitted to the Yampa Valley Medical Center emergency room after attempting or contemplating suicide.
R.E.P.S. is training second-year nursing students at Colorado Northwestern Community College about suicide, but the organization is looking for more groups that want to be trained. This is an opportunity Moffat County businesses, governments, schools and civic groups should not pass up.