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Rocky Mountain Health Foundation awards $105K to Northwest Colorado organizations

CRAIG — Multiple health organizations in Moffat, Routt, Rio Blanco and Jackson counties should see benefits after receiving recent grant funding of more than $100,000.

Memorial Regional Health Foundation was awarded a $10,000 grant Thursday, Nov. 8, which will provide additional equipment for behavioral health care telehealth services with MRH.

The grant was among many awarded by Rocky Mountain Health Foundation to support health- and wellness-related causes that directly impact education, prevention, and access to health, community engagement, intervention, and treatment.

"We are proud to partner with organizations focusing on improving the health of our Northwest Colorado residents," said Michaelle Smith, Rocky Mountain Health Foundation executive director. "Supporting health-related programs for some of our most vulnerable populations ensures better health, better care, and better communities."

Eight nonprofit organizations serving Jackson, Moffat, Rio Blanco, and Routt counties received a total of $105,000 from Rocky Mountain Health Foundation during the first three grant cycles of 2018.

"I am thrilled to see these funds impact our local community," said Scott Rotermund, a member of the RMHF board of directors and Steamboat Springs resident. "We are funding the future of community health and developing the next generation of community health leaders. What a gift it is to work with others and make our community better."

A tablet, Pan Tilt Zoom camera, speaker, cart, and integrated wired and wireless networking will now be purchased for use at The Memorial Hospital.

“MRH plans to purchase the telehealth system to implement telehealth services with Regroup Therapy, Inc. Regroup provides customized behavioral health solution via telemedicine. It provides high-quality clinicians who deliver telepsychiatry services via a secure, HIPAA compliant virtual care platform,” said MRH Foundation Director Eva Peroulis. 

In addition to the grant received by MRH Foundation, a $15,000 grant was given to Northwest Colorado Health to support Community Connectors in Moffat County.

Other inaugural awards include the following:

• $15,000 to the Colorado Northwestern Community College Foundation to replace essential dental hygiene chairs for community oral health in Rio Blanco County.

• $25,000 to Integrated Community to support a medical interpretation and resource referral education program in Routt County.

• $10,000 to LiftUp of Routt County to hire a part-time caseworker.

• $5,000 to the Routt County Council on Aging to fund "A Balancing Act" pilot program.

• $15,000 to Yampa Valley Autism Program for ABA behavior therapy for children with intensive behavior needs in Routt County.

• $10,000 to Jackson County Council on Aging for general operations support.

Rocky Mountain Health Foundation was established in 2017 to improve the health of Western Slope Coloradans by being a catalyst and collaborator for innovative health care approaches and promoting the health and well-being of Western Slope communities.

It is anticipated that $1 million will be distributed in 2018 through quarterly grant awards.

Grants are awarded to address access to health care, preventive care and services, behavioral health services, case management, population health (including integrating social service programs and health systems), and community-based projects.

Prospective grant applicants with questions may contact Kim Lewis, grant manager, at 970-697-1038 or kim@rmhealth.org. For more information, visit rmhealth.org.

Memorial Regional Health: The time for a flu shot is now — Seasonal flu vaccines especially important for children and adults older than 65

Editor's note: The following is sponsored content from Memorial Regional Health.

One hundred years ago, the world faced the most severe flu pandemic in modern history, which affected about 500 million people around the globe.

That's one-third of the world population in 1918, and the pandemic caused about 50 million deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that research of the pandemic, which was caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian origin, are still not well understood.

Seasonal flu and pandemic flu are very different challenges, however the way both flu viruses spread is the same: from person to person, through droplets created when someone with flu coughs, sneezes, or speaks within six feet of another person.

There have been 18 hospitalizations due to seasonal influenza in Colorado so far this season, which is trending below last year's numbers at the same time. The peak of flu season is still one to three months away.

Vaccines

Anyone older than 6 months should get a flu vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Doctors recommend getting flu shots every fall, but the vaccine is generally available well into January or even later. Flu season can continue into May, but the peak period is between December and February, according to the CDC.

The flu vaccine can keep you from getting sick with the flu and reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization for children and adults. It can also save your child's life. A 2017 CDC study found the vaccine significantly reduces a child's risk of dying from influenza.

Anyone showing signs of the flu should see his or her doctor as soon as possible for one of two antiviral drugs — Tamiflu or Relenza. The CDC reports that, when those drugs are received within a day or two, they can reduce the length and severity of the flu.

Is it flu or a cold?

The flu might mimic symptoms of the common cold at first — a sore throat, runny nose, and sneezing are common — but the Mayo Clinic reports the flu comes on faster and lasts longer. While the flu, a viral infection, often resolves on its own in most people, it can be deadly for some.

Those at higher risk of developing serious complications from the flu include children younger than age 5 — especially those younger than age 2 — adults older than age 65, residents of nursing homes or other care facilities, pregnant women and women up to two weeks postpartum, people with weakened immune systems, people with chronic illnesses, and people who are very obese with a body mass index of 40 or higher.

Memorial Regional Health reminds parents to take children to see a doctor if they exhibit flu symptoms. It's also recommended children get a flu shot every season.

According to Memorial Regional Health, babies can't blow their own noses and need help clearing their airways during bouts of colds and flu.

"That's where the MRH Suction Clinic comes in. The clinic is open 24/7, and parents can bring their child up to four times a day for a week with a single prescription from their doctor," according to Memorial Regional Health's website. "Respiratory therapists use a nasopharyngeal suction machine to suck out secretions. Therapists also evaluate your child's respiratory rate and oxygen saturation. Patients check in at the emergency department main desk. Cost is $128 per visit and can be billed to insurance."

The flu causes thousands of deaths per year in the United States and is the most frequent cause of death from a vaccine-preventable disease, according to the Immunization Action Coalition.

A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that, among children with underlying high-risk medical conditions, a flu vaccination reduces the risk of death by 51 percent. In healthy children, the risk of death was reduced by 65 percent.

"The study findings underscore the importance of the recommendation by CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics that all children 6 months and older get an annual flu vaccine," according to the report, published in the Journal Pediatrics.

Living Well: Sore throat — Is it strep or something else?

It's that time of year when coughs, runny noses, fevers, and sore throats are rampant among the community. Many patients — children and adults — visiting our MRH clinics are concerned about sore throats and wonder if they may be caused by strep.

There are many reasons for sore throats, which are caused by both viruses and bacteria. It may be as simple as nasal drainage down the back of your throat, or a bacterial infection, including strep throat. Most sore throat complaints can be handled at your doctor's office or in a walk-in clinic.

Some common causes of sore throats are colds, allergies, influenza A and B, hand-foot-and-mouth, mononucleosis (aka mono), and strep infection. Testing is typically done to determine the cause. At MRH clinics, we test for influenza A and B and streptococcal bacteria in our office with throat or nose swab and for mono, with a blood test, which is sent to the lab.

The most common cause of a sore throat is a virus, which does not require any antibiotic treatment. There is antiviral treatment for a positive influenza diagnosis and antibiotic treatment for patients with positive group A strep testing. Viral infections typically resolve within a few days to a week with home supportive care, such as drinking plenty of fluids; drinking warm fluids; using over-the-counter pain medications, such as Tylenol and Advil; using throat lozenges; and eating a normal diet, if tolerated.

Uncommon or rare causes of sore throat includes epiglottitis, peritonsillar abscess, and tracheitis — all caused by different bacterial infections. According to the CDC, the incidence of strep throat in children is approximately 20 children out of 100 with a sore throat, but the incidence of bacterial tracheitis is only about four children out of 1,000,000 children per year.

These are serious infections which typically require an emergency department visit, IV antibiotics, IV steroids, and possible admission to the hospital. These types of infections are not subtle, and people are often very ill at the time of diagnosis. Symptoms of these types of infections include high fever, rapidly worsening sore throat, difficulty swallowing saliva, excessive drooling, difficulty breathing, stridor (high pitched noise heard when person is breathing), fast breathing, and increased difficulty in breathing. If someone has any of these symptoms, he or she should seek immediate medical attention by going to the emergency department or calling 911.

The best advice for prevention of sore throat is to wash your hands frequently. Hand washing has been shown to reduce the transmission of viral and bacterial infections among the community. Always use warm water and soap, wash for at least 20 seconds (sing the alphabet), and dry well with a towel. If you are unable to wash your hands, use antibacterial, alcohol-based hand cleaners. You may also want to avoid sharing food or drinks with others who have sore throat symptoms. But, if you still end up with a sore throat, please visit your medical provider for evaluation.

Rapid Care is open from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. for your convenience. It's located at 2020 W. Victory Way in Craig, and walk-ins are welcome.

Jennifer Schmitt is a physician assistant for Memorial Regional Health at Rapid Care Clinic.

Memorial Regional Health launches new health care membership program in Moffat County

 CRAIG — In a year of innovation, Memorial Regional Health has launched a new membership program for the purchase of primary care services.

"mHealth Direct is one of several things we've done to lower the cost of health care in Moffat County," said Memorial Regional Health CEO Andy Daniels during the launch of the service Nov. 1.

Daniels explained that MRH also lowered prices on some services and imaging, and — working with Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield — is also offering a new affordable health insurance plan.

The latest offering — mHealth Direct — gives members access to MRH primary care, limited labs, limited procedures, reduced cash-based prices for imaging, access to first consultations with specialist, and pharmacy discounts (emergency and hospital services are not included) for a structured flat fee per month.

"Think gym membership, but for health care. Anyone can join, and kids are close to free," according to mHeath Direct marketing materials.

The new product may be especially appealing to people without insurance or with high-deductible plans who want a more affordable way to see their doctor regularly without incurring high out-of-pocket costs.

"It's a great product for college kids who need treatment for colds, flu, bumps, and bruises," Daniels said when asked to describe other types of patients who might benefit.

"It's also something employers can buy to offer some health benefit for their employees," he said.

Since mHealth is not an insurance plan or a substitute for an insurance plan, there are no limits with regard to pre-existing conditions.

"This is a great product offered to people who don't have insurance, as well as a small business who can't afford to provide insurance," said Craig Chamber of Commerce Office Assistant and Bookkeeper Bonnie Flanders.

The idea was borrowed from other providers on Colorado's Front Range in anticipation of changes made to the Affordable Care Act, which, in January, will see the end of the individual mandate — or compulsory health insurance.

Members are issued a card to use when they seek services provided by MRH clinics.

Discounted services, and prescriptions — at a wholesale discount — through MRH's community pharmacy, must be paid for upfront via cash, credit card, or check.

People on Medicaid and/or Medicare are not eligible. It's not eligible for health savings account spending, but some flexible spending account dollars may be eligible for membership purchase.

Signup is open now, with memberships beginning Jan. 1.

Those who join must enroll for 12 months and pay upfront or via a monthly automatic deduction. Costs vary from $69 to $178 per month, and children age 1 to 19 are only $5 each with an adult membership.

"I'm very excited about it. I think it has potential. And I'm also going to look into the new Anthem product," said Craig resident Sue Lyster, who attended the launch.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.

Memorial Regional Health: Fight childhood weight gain this holiday season — More than 27 percent of Colorado children are overweight or obese

Editor’s note: The following is sponsored content from Memorial Regional Health

If your children are still binging on their Halloween candy, it's time to stop.

While a day or two of limitless Halloween candy consumption is OK, three days should be the absolute max, according to Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, an expert in the psychology of eating. She recommends limitless candy access for a day or two after Halloween, because limiting it or trying to replace it with healthy food can cause children to become fixated or obsessed with eating the candy.

More than 18 percent of American children are obese, putting them at greater risk of facing a lifetime of obesity and its many negative consequences. In Colorado, more than 27 percent of children are considered overweight or obese.

Overall obesity rates remain higher than they were a generation ago, but the rise in rates has "slowed in recent years following decades of sharp increases starting in the early 1970s," according to the 2018 State of Obesity report, citing data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

"Children who are overweight or have obesity are more likely to have obesity as adults. As such, targeting interventions that will help families and young children have access to healthy, affordable foods and safe places for physical activity is a promising strategy for addressing America's obesity epidemic," the report says.

Right after Halloween, and as more indulgent holidays are approaching, is a great time to talk to children about sugar and nutrition, according to Thompson.

"Have the 'sugar talk' to explain to them why sugar isn't good for us. In addition to being addictive and a major culprit in weight gain, sugar is associated with a whole plethora of health risks, from heart and liver problems and diabetes and even cancer. Kids should know this.," she says. "Not to mention that eating sugar can lead to cavities and unpleasant dentist visits."

Move more

One of the best interventions parents can use to encourage better habits is to lead by example. This includes limiting any sort of screen time and removing screens from the bedroom and kitchen, said Kevin Monahan, pediatric physician assistant at Memorial Regional Health.

"Encourage any sort of activity that involves movement — team sports, going to a park, playground, walking/biking, dog walking," Monahan said. "Ideally, aim for 60 minutes of exercise daily, but any movement in my mind is good movement."

Genetics play a role in a child's weight and overall body structure, but not so much so that obesity can't be prevented, he added.

"It is best if the whole family incorporate healthy eating habits and exercising," he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 60 minutes of physical activity per day for children. About 57 percent of the children in Colorado do not meet physical activity recommendations, according to the Colorado Child Health Survey. It’s important to note that children can get exercise in many ways, not just from what we’d consider formal exercise.

Eat smarter

Children are more likely to meet fruit and vegetable consumption recommendations if their parents do and if their family eats meals together at least once a day,” according to the Colorado Child Health Survey.

Health experts recommend that, in addition to an hour of physical activity per day, children need at least two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables per day, few to no sugar-sweetened beverages, two hours or less of screen time, and nine to 12 hours of sleep, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

"Encourage 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day," Monahan said. "Push water and limit sugar-laden drinks like juices and sodas. Decrease high calorie snacks."

Promoting good sleeps habits can also help, Monahan said. Nine to 10 hours of sleep per night can decrease the risk of becoming overweight or obese.

Childhood obesity increases the risk for high blood pressure, breathing problems, joint and muscle pain. Obese children are also more likely to become obese adults, facing greater risk for heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers, according to Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment. Some experts believe childhood obesity can also cause gastrointestinal problems, such as fatty liver disease, acid reflux, and gallstones. Childhood obesity has also been associated with anxiety and depression, low self esteem, and social problems, such as bullying and feeling stigmatized.

$2,600 grant from MFA Oil Foundation to provide pediatric car seats for Moffat County ambulances

CRAIG — Memorial Regional Health Foundation was awarded a $2,600 grant from the MFA Oil Foundation to purchase new pediatric car seats for all three ambulances.

“This funding will improve and expand Moffat County's emergency medical and trauma services,” said Stayton Mosbey, MRH Emergency Medical Services supervisor. “Our ambulatory service upgrade is essential to support EMS in Northwest Colorado.”

The pediatric seats currently used are 10 years old, large, and difficult for crews to store aboard the ambulances.

“The new seats keep children safer, are more portable and compact,” Mosbey said.

MRH Foundation submitted the successful grant to MFA Oil Foundation with three EMS safety equipment items identified for consideration. MFA Oil chose to fund ambulance child restraint systems for MRH ambulances.

Adam Smith, with MFA Oil, was on hand, noting he was pleased the company could contribute to improving MRH's EMS department.

“We are a family-oriented company, and we want all families in the community to be safer,” he said.

A farmer-owned cooperative, MFA Oil has provided energy solutions to customers for more than 85 years. The company serves a 10-state region, stretching from Utah to Indiana, and is the eighth-largest propane retailer in the United States, according to the business’s website.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.

Energy Blend: Dominion Energy joins companies supporting Moffat County health care

CRAIG — Dominion Energy will give $10,000 to help build a new medical office building in Craig.

Operating in Northwest Colorado as Dominion Energy Questar Pipeline, the company formed about a year ago, when Dominion Energy merged with Questar.

Dominion owns and operates about 2,000 miles of pipeline, transporting natural gas in six major producing areas, including the Greater Green River, Uinta, and Piceance basins to markets across the West and Midwest.

“Company-wide, we have a large foundation that grants a lot of money every year,” Porter said.

Redbud trees were given to Moffat County Educators through Project Plant It earlier this year, and in 2013, the company supported the Memorial Hospital Foundation in Craig to help purchase an electronic medical records system for the hospital.

The new $10,000 gift will help the Memorial Regional Health Foundation in its goal of raising $1 million to leverage matching dollars from sources outside the community. The foundation is nearing that goal, having now raised about $820,000.

"The campaign is still going and is in full swing," said MRH Foundation Executive Director Eva Peroulis. "We appreciate the support."

The 60,000-square-foot Medical Office Building will be adjacent to the hospital on an existing 17-acre lot. When complete, it will replace the clinic on Russell Street, which was built in 1949 as the original hospital and is "a hodgepodge of several add-ons that have been cobbled together over the years," according to MRH officials.

The project bears an estimated cost of $29 million, including equipment and furnishings. The health system’s general operating budget, grants, and a USDA loan will pay for the new building. No new tax mills or bonds are being considered for the project.

Dominion's announcement of support came in September after Trapper Mine gave a $25,000 donation earlier this year.

Trapper Mine — after the Bank of San Juans and Severson Supply and Rental — was the third company to step forward with a $25,000 donation.

"I'm new to the area, but the mine has had a long history of supporting the community. Our donation continues that long history of support," said mine President and General Manager Michael Morriss when he presented the check in January.

During efforts to build The Memorial Hospital, Trapper Mine, Rio Tinto, Shell Oil, Questar now owned by Dominion, Entegra Gas Pipeline, and Peabody Twentymile Coal Company all donated.

"They were a significant part of the success in raising money to build the new hospital," said MRH Foundation President Kristine Cooper.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.

Grief support program to host potluck Nov. 13

CRAIG — Northwest Colorado Health will host a Comfort Cooking Potluck from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13, at Northwest Colorado Health, 483 Yampa Avenue.

The event is for anyone who has lost a loved one and would like to honor that person's memory through cooking.

Attendees are asked to bring their loved one's favorite dish, copies of the recipe, and stories to share. For more information or to RSVP, call Sandy Beran at 970-871-7682.

Future uncertain for Moffat County employee Health and Wellness Center

CRAIG — The future is uncertain for the Moffat County employee health and wellness center.

The Moffat County Employee Health Insurance Board is considering options after Memorial Regional Health provided notice it will end its service Dec. 31. MRH also offered an alternative, more cost-effective solution to replace the clinic.

"Because we are aware of the ongoing financial challenges of Moffat County as an entity, we would like to continue to collaborate with you on an alternative solution," MRH CEO Andy Daniels wrote in a legally required letter of termination sent to commissioners in September.

The entire letter, including a cost comparison, can be viewed in this story at CraigDailyPress.com.

"Our proposal to the county did away with the county-owned clinic and proposed that we instead provide the services out of our existing Rapid Care Clinic," Daniels said in a follow-up interview Nov. 1.

If its makes the change, it is estimated the county will save more than $63,000 in 2019. It could also gain one-time revenue and ongoing maintenance costs by selling the county-owned building at 551 Tucker Street, where the center is located.

Moffat County employees and their dependents have exclusively had the option to seek care at an employee-only health and wellness center since it was established in 2013 as a strategy to lower insurance costs.

Between then and January 2018, that meant diverting county employees away from the county-owned health care provider (now Memorial Regional Health). In January 2018, MRH became the service provider after a successful bid.

The future is uncertain for the Moffat County Employee Health and Wellness Center.

"When this whole idea came about, it was partly due to insurance, because we were having some large claims in the county and found that it would be cheaper to go this route,” said then-County Commissioner Tom Mathers in an interview with the Craig Daily Press.

Moffat County Commissioners Ray Beck and Don Cook may have addressed those concerns when they saved the county an estimated $224,000 in insurance costs in 2019 by voting to change insurance providers from UMR/Berkshire to the new Anthem Mountain Enhanced Network. The new insurance offering was brought to the community by Anthem through collaboration with MRH, as announced Oct. 19.

"We are looking at all areas of the budget and where we can save money for the county and save money for employees," Beck said Thursday.

And, according to Daniels, even more, money could be saved if county employees elect to participate in mHealth Direct — a new health care membership plan launched Thursday.

"This is not an insurance product but a primary care subscription model designed for people without insurance or those on high-deductible plans that want to budget their health dollars more efficiently," he said.

Next, Beck said he expects to have a conversation about the county’s options with members of the Employee Health Insurance Board, though this discussion is not yet on the commissioners’ November workshop schedule.

The board will need to make a formal recommendation to commissioners for their approval before any action can be taken on the health and wellness center.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.

Open enrollment for individual health insurance starts Nov. 1

It’s insurance open enrollment time.

Open enrollment for individual coverage — coverage not from an employer — runs from Nov. 1 through Jan. 15. However, people who want coverage to start on Jan. 1 must enroll by Dec. 15. Enrolling from Dec. 16 through Jan. 15 will mean coverage will start on Feb. 1.

Colorado individual health insurance consumers can enroll through the state exchange, Connect for Health Colorado, through an insurance agent, or directly with an insurance company selling individual coverage. However, using Connect for Health Colorado is the only way to access tax credits and cost-sharing reductions that can bring down the cost of health insurance.

The Colorado Division of Insurance, part of the Department of Regulatory Agencies, reminds Colorado consumers to be vigilant about any health coverage options that are less than what they seem.

Alternatives to standard health insurance, such as short-term plans and health care sharing arrangements, have limitations consumers need to understand when shopping. Coloradans who are considering or ultimately enroll in such alternatives must be aware that these options do not offer full health coverage.

"My goal is for people to make their health coverage decisions with their eyes wide open," said Interim Insurance Commissioner Michael Conway. "There is a reason that these alternatives are cheaper. They cover less, and consumers may not see the savings they expect as they pay more out of their own pockets. Because marketing around these alternatives is likely to increase, I'm concerned that consumers will be lured by perceived lower costs."

Conway encouraged people to be cautious and take the time to scrutinize their health coverage options. Find out how particular health needs will be covered, determine costs, and ask questions about prescriptions and doctors.

Those who need help determining what kind of questions to ask, or who just want assistance decoding the language of a health plan, are invited to contact the Division of Insurance Consumer Services at 303-894-7490, 800-930-3745, or dora_insurance@state.co.us.

Earlier this month, the DOI  reported that news for the individual market in 2019 is largely positive, with an overall average increase in premiums of only 5.6 percent. Many Coloradans can realize lower premiums in the individual market, and in some cases, pay even lower rates than they paid in 2018.  Additionally, consumers can expect the return of the same seven insurance companies for 2019 that sold individual plans for 2018.