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Health equity advocate Beka Warren receives state recognition

One doesn’t necessarily need to know Beka Warren personally to recognize her name as one of Northwest Colorado’s biggest champions of health equality for underserved populations and a tireless advocate for ensuring local resources exist for victims of crime and trauma.

Earlier this month, the Colorado Health Foundation recognized Warren with the 2019 Dr. Virgilio Licona Community Health Leadership Award, a community health leadership award program that honors the life and legacy of the late Dr. Virgilio Licona. According to the Colorado Health Foundation, Licona was a nationally recognized advocate for social justice and worked to improve the health of the neediest populations in Colorado.

Warren’s former role as executive director of Open Heart Advocates — a Moffat County nonprofit that specializes in working with victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, human trafficking and other crime and trauma — is the icing on the cake for a resume that otherwise includes everything from vice president of quality at Memorial Regional Health, deputy coroner for Moffat County, and a technician for Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Bank, among dozens of other paid and volunteer roles in the community health realm.

“Beka has spent her entire adult life serving people,” said Dan Bingham, the crime and victims advocate coordinator at Open Heart Advocates. “She has such a heart for this community.”

Warren stepped into the executive director role in March 2018 at a time when the organization was struggling to keep its doors open.

“We had just lost funding from one of our major sources and we were fighting to service,” Bingham said. “She literally was a knight on a white horse who rode in and saved us. If she hadn’t done what she did we wouldn’t be here, I guarantee it.”

While Warren doesn’t view herself as anyone’s savior, she saw the struggles of Moffat County’s most vulnerable citizens and felt compelled to act. More than 40% of Advocates’ clients identify as Latino, a population that can be very hard to reach.

“We have the same issues here that other places have — we aren’t isolated,” she said. “There is just so much need. The domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking is really bad here, especially with Latino populations. It’s much more common than people think.”

She also firmly believes that once anyone knows about a problem, they own it and they should try to do something to help.

“Rather than turn our backs or shun victims, we need to help,” she said. “We’re all still people.”

As part of her award, Warren received $20,000 for a nonprofit of her choice. She chose Open Heart Advocates. Although she doesn’t know exactly what they will do with the award, her hope is that some resource will be dedicated to a growing homeless population in Craig.

“Twenty thousand won’t even operate the agency for one month,” Warren said. “But Craig has a very difficult time with homeless people because there are just no resources. I hope this will help.”

Warren’s impact and influence will be a heavy burden now that she has relocated to the Front Range to be near her children and grandchildren.

“She never lost sight of continuing to make Advocates stronger and more solid every step of the way,” Bingham said. “She was focused on taking care of our clients and the community and she did whatever it took to makes sure everyone who needed help got it.”

Though her tireless work to improve protocols and processes and to ensure that the agency had all of its ducks in a row for grant kept the organization moving forward, it was often her after-hours commitment that made her the truly unsung hero.

“She would work countless hours after everyone else had gone home just making sure the details were taken care of,” Bingham said. “She would do things like check all of the expiration dates on goods in the food pantry and make sure we had infant care kits for our victims. She never wanted credit for anything she did. She just did what needed to be done.”

Moffat County Horizons’ Michael Toothaker retiring after lengthy service to organization

Beginning his prolific career in serving people with physical, developmental, and mental health challenges in 1975, Michael Toothaker, the Moffat County adult community coordinator at Horizons, is retiring on Friday, Aug. 30.

Horizons Specialized Services is a federally and state-funded community center board that serves five northwest counties: Grand, Jackson, Moffat, Rio Blanco, and Routt.

“I’ve been allowed to contribute to people’s lives being better and making a difference,” Toothaker said.

Born and raised in Denver, Toothaker was working for a roofing business in the 1970s when one day, he was talking to his friend about wanting to get away from the business.

“I was working on his roof down in Denver; I was complaining about roofing, and he said ‘you know what, you should come and work for me.’ That was 1975,” he said.

That is when Toothaker officially began his career in public service at Suburban Services, a community center board that offers similar services as Horizons to people with physical and developmental challenges.

After five years with Suburban Services, Toothaker was looking to get out of the Denver area when his friend, Roger Reynolds, who had moved to Steamboat Springs to work for Horizons, offered Toothaker a job in 1980.

Upon Toothaker’s hiring at Horizons, Toothaker opened up two group homes in Steamboat in 1980 and 1981, and opened up the first group home in Craig in 1982. Since then, two other group homes have been established in Craig.

However, Toothaker departed from Horizons in 1987 to finish his master’s degree in psychology and become a therapist who specializes in substance abuse. He worked in community mental health until 2003, upon which, he was offered a job back at Horizons as the Moffat County adult community coordinator.

“My responsibilities are to make sure we do what we’re mandated to do — to serve our clients the best we can and to provide the highest level of independence as possible for these individuals,” he said.

Currently living with his wife of 11 years in Steamboat and with retirement just around the corner, Toothaker said he plans to do substance abuse counseling part-time in retirement, but he is looking forward to spending time with his kids and grandchildren, as well as snowboarding, biking, backpacking, and pretty much anything he can do outdoors.

“The first thing I’ve got planned during retirement is going backpacking in middle of the week,” Toothaker said enthusiastically. “Usually we have to go on a Friday.”

Toothaker’s retirement party takes place from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 30 at The Barrel Cathedral with a complimentary buffet from Fais Do-Do.

Friends, family, and colleagues are all encouraged to come and wish Toothaker off to a happy retirement.

Jesica McMillan, who is currently the office coordinator at Horizons, will be stepping in to fulfill Toothaker’s role after he retires.

“I’m just lucky enough to have learned from him,” McMillan said. “He’s taught me what a boss is and how to be a good one.”

McMillan started working for Horizons in October 2008, but eventually took a brief hiatus to begin a family. She came back in 2016 to work as a case manager, and is now getting ready to begin her new position.

“I’m excited to see how far we can take Horizons,” she said.

“It’s been an honor to serve this community,” said Toothaker.

Living Well: Summer heat, wildfires can aggravate breathing problems

With wildfire season upon us and a 170-acre fire already burning near the border of Routt and Moffat counties, anyone with breathing or respiratory issues should pay close attention to air quality. 

Wind, pollen and dust are often the root cause of summer breathing problems in the high country, which can turn especially serious for those suffering from respiratory conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma. These problems can be exacerbated due to wildfire smoke. 

Symptoms might include a tight chest, trouble taking a deep breath, tickling or burning in the lungs, whistling from the lungs (wheezing), coughing and uncontrolled coughing. 

Anyone with known breathing conditions should avoid outdoor exposure as much as possible and take respiratory medications as prescribed, said Anessa Kopsa, cardiopulmonary manager and respiratory therapist at Memorial Regional Health.

Weather’s effects on the lungs

Hot weather can aggravate respiratory disorders like COPD and it can trigger asthma symptoms, according to the American Lung Association. The correlation has to do with the airway inflammation that occurs when breathing in hot air.

“If you know you have problems breathing when it is smoky outside from fires, please stay inside if you can and make sure you take your respiratory and other medications as prescribed,” Kopsa said. “Asthma and COPD attacks can come on quickly. If your rescue inhalers are not working, seek medical help — don’t wait until you are in severe distress.”

Decrease risk from wildfire smoke
  • Check air quality reports for the region at www.colorado.gov/airquality
  • Listen and watch for news or health warnings about smoke. Check the Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index (AQI) at AirNow.gov.
  • Keep indoor air as clean as possible if you are advised to stay indoors. Keep windows and doors closed. Run an air conditioner, but keep the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent outdoor smoke from getting inside. If you do not have an air conditioner and it is too warm to stay inside with the windows closed, seek shelter in a designated evacuation center or away from the affected area. 
  • Avoid activities that increase indoor pollution. Burning candles, fireplaces or gas stoves can increase indoor pollution. Vacuuming stirs up particles already inside your home, contributing to indoor pollution. Smoking also pollutes the air.
  • Prevent wildfires from starting. Prepare, build, maintain and extinguish campfires safely. Follow local regulations if you burn trash or debris. Check with your local fire department to be sure the weather is safe enough for burning.
  • Follow the advice of your doctor or other healthcare provider about medicines and about your respiratory management plan if you have asthma or another lung disease. Consider evacuating if you are having trouble breathing. Call your doctor for advice if your symptoms worsen.
  • Do not rely on dust masks for protection. Paper “comfort” or “dust” masks commonly found at hardware stores are designed to trap large particles, such as sawdust. These masks will not protect your lungs from the small particles found in wildfire smoke.
  • Evacuate from the path of wildfires. Listen to the news to learn about current evacuation orders. Follow the instructions of local officials about when and where to evacuate. 

Source: www.cdc.gov/features/wildfires

Pulmonary services offered at MRH

  • Pulmonary Function Testing (breathing tests) to diagnose asthma, COPD and other breathing conditions. 
  • Asthma education by a certified Asthma Educator to help you live an active life with the disease. 
  • Education on how to properly take respiratory medications. 
  • Treatment of acute and chronic respiratory episodes in the emergency room.

To schedule an appointment, call 970-826-2211.

People who are under the age of 18 or over the age of 65, and those with chronic heart disease or diabetes, are also at an increased risk for breathing complications due to smoky air. The American Lung Association suggests taking precautions such as staying indoors, rolling up car windows, protecting air inside the home by keeping windows, doors and fireplace dampers shut, avoiding outdoor exercise and never putting too much faith in dust masks. 

Ordinary dust masks only filter out large particles, while masks that claim to filter out damaging fine particles may not fit properly or can be difficult to use for those with lung disease. 

“These masks can make it more difficult for anyone to breathe and should only be used if you must go outside,” according to the American Lung Association. “Consult with your doctor before using a mask, especially if you have a lung disease.”

Kopsa also recommends drinking lots of water, avoiding long exposure to heat and wearing a mask or handkerchief if you must go out in smoky conditions.

Colorado attorney general talks addiction, mental health in Craig

Colorado’s top attorney might look to Craig and Moffat County Sheriff KC Hume for a model to address Colorado’s opioid crisis. 

Attorney General Phil Weiser visited the Colorado Northwest Community College in Craig Tuesday, Aug. 20 for a small town hall gathering inside CNCC’s library.

“I’m here because I represent Craig, Colorado and I want to work with you along with your sheriff and with the people of this community who want to thrive in the future…” Weiser said, adding solving Craig’s challenges can help the entire country. “It’s important for America because we cannot let communities like Craig suffer while other communities are doing great… We gotta find a way to have some shared prosperity so that all of Colorado can thrive.”

When no one in the small group of about 10 residents initially asked any questions, Colorado’s Attorney General started asking his own. Weiser wanted to know about Craig’s addiction problem.

“Are you seeing more opioids or meth these days?” Weiser asked Hume, who attended Tuesday.

“Opiods,” Hume answered quickly. “Meth is starting to make a little resurgence. We are seeing more of that. A lot of efforts that’ve been national and across Colorado have made some positive movement in dealing with this. I choose my words very carefully and it was several years ago I started calling this a crisis, because it is.”

Hume said Moffat County’s opioid crisis caused his office to rethink its jail intake procedures.

“It caused a situation where we changed and had to modify the intake process at my jail because a large number of those individuals coming in were either high on opioids or coming down,” Hume said. “And the coming down process on opioids is dramatically different and dramatically more significant from that of meth. So, we’ve made some changes.”

Those changes involved providing medication to inmates to help wean them off some street drugs.

“We’ve made some strides with our partners — rural regional health and some other folks — to introduce MAT: medication-assisted treatment,” Hume said.

This intrigued Weiser.

“That’s fabulous,” Weiser said. “While they’re in the jail?”

“Yup,” Hume said. “While they’re in the jail.”

Weiser wanted to know how Hume pays for such treatment, and Hume explained grant dollars from Northwest Colorado Health and others have been used to provide some of the treatment. Weiser said he wants to help the area continue to receive such grants.

“I’m happy to write you a letter of recommendation for those grants,” Weiser said.

Hume said he hopes the grants will reduce residents being incarcerated in the Moffat County jail multiple times.

“I’m very proud of that,” Hume said of the jail treatment program. “Here in Northwest Colorado where resources are extremely limited, where funding and revenue streams dry up, we’re able to make a positive impact and hopefully reduce recidivism.”

Weiser added he wants to see a little more of Hume’s “playbook” to aid others in the industry.

“I stole it. It wasn’t my idea. I stole it from others and put it together,” Hume joked.

But whether the county’s drug treatment program will reduce recidivism rates is yet to be seen.

“Have you been evaluating whether or not, due to the medically-assisted treatment or the mental health side, you’re lowering recidivism?” Weiser asked.

“I believe we have not from the medicated-assisted treatment side because it is so new for us, so we don’t have the historical data,” Hume answered.

The attorney general said he’ll be listening for Moffat County’s recidivism rates once the data is collected as part of the county’s treatment grant.

“I’m very curious to hear how your recidivism rates have changed due to some of the things you’re doing,” Weiser said. “…I need to get from you a little more of your playbook so I can help others to learn from you.”

The conversation Tuesday soon turned to other issues such as water, oil and gas, and criminal justice reform. Weiser said he is looking at reforming Colorado’s cash bail system.

“What I’d like us to do is move to a risk assessment system where if you don’t believe someone’s a risk to harm anybody or reoffend or flee, let them out without even asking to pay money,” Weiser said. “Because a lot of people can’t even pull together $500, which means someone will sit in jail when they haven’t been convicted of anything and they lose their jobs. That harms their families and you often get worse outcomes, so we’re going to keep improving criminal justice.”

Mental health dominated much of Tuesday’s conversation. Jennifer Holloway, who previously held a position at CNCC before her new job at the Craig Chamber of Commerce, asked Weiser to help the legislature consider funding security for schools as part of any possible extra funding for mental health.

“We just don’t have funding for that,” Holloway said of mental health-related security.

Holloway pointed out the area’s mental health crisis culminated in several recent suicides.

“I was at the college before this job. I was the director of student support,” Holloway said. “I had five students kill themselves in my seven years here, and most all of them were ones I knew about ahead of time.”

Hume pointed out the jail has a contract with Mind Springs, a major provider of mental health services out of Grand Junction.

“That’s another piece of our entire continuum and efforts to reduce recidivism because we want people to go to court,” Hume said. “We want people to have good health care. We want people to have quality mental health services. We want people to be employed. We want people to be contributing members of our community. We don’t want them sitting in jail. It benefits no one.”

Weiser said Colorado’s new red flag gun law is part of the legislature’s efforts to address mental health concerns. He estimated Moffat County might see one red flag confiscation every five to 10 years based on the area’s population compared to other states with similar laws like Indiana and California.  

“There are ways to do this so that law enforcement doesn’t end up in an escalated situation,” Weiser said. “We are still developing our guidance, but we are not the first state to do this.”

After the passage of legislation in Denver allowing local governments more authority to regulate oil and gas on their own, Weiser said the area’s energy interests shouldn’t be worried if Moffat County’s commissioners don’t want to further regulate oil and gas.

“The theory of the law is that if a local government says we will operate how we’ve always operated, there wouldn’t be a change,” Weiser said. “So, the theory is nothing in Moffat County needs to change. It’s still a work in progress, but that’s the theory behind the law.”

Weiser wants Craig and Moffat County to know he’s working to support residents and families who may suffer from a transition away from coal.

“We’ve gotta make sure we have a just transition and find ways to support workers and communities so that as certain natural resources and energy sources decline, we don’t allow those communities to be devastated,” Weiser said. “I do believe in a bright future for Moffat County. It may well be different from the past, but it can be thriving. It will take a bunch of different steps including supporting the college and bringing broadband to this community, but also an ability to work together and rise to this challenge.”

Colorado Proud statewide program promoting agriculture awareness

Representatives of Colorado Proud, a program of the Colorado Department of Agriculture, have recently popped by Moffat and Routt County locales as part of its 20th anniversary celebration and campaign.

Colorado Proud has stopped at Moffat County and at Main Street Steamboat Farmers’ Market in Steamboat Spring on the “The Next Generation of Ag” tour — a month-long, statewide tour through Colorado communities.

“The goal is to connect with local residents and share conversations around agriculture, including innovation, technology and relationships with consumers, farmers, ranchers and retailers,” according to a news release from the program.

The tour launched in Denver on Aug. 1, and continues along Colorado’s agriculture landscape with a final destination at the Colorado State Fair. Colorado Governor Jared Polis has also issued a Proclamation declaring August as Colorado Proud Month.

“This month’s tour is especially exciting during our 20th anniversary year, capturing the dynamic combination of history and heritage in our state’s ag communities. The Next Generation of Ag theme puts an umbrella over every aspect of agriculture that’s growing and changing – and that is impacting our state with fresh ideas and, of course, with fresh food,” said Wendy White, marketing specialist for Colorado Proud who has been involved for almost the entirety of the program.

In 1999, the program started with 65 companies; and now, the Colorado Proud program has more than 2,700 members that include farmers, ranchers, food manufacturers, restaurants, retailers and schools statewide.

The original goal of Colorado Proud was “to build relationships between farmers, ranchers, food producers, retailers and consumers,” according to White.

“We wanted to give producers and businesses the right tools for sustaining those relationships, while helping them succeed and while educating consumers about the evolving, local food movement. We planted ‘seeds’ for this program in 1999, during a pivotal time in our industry, and we’ll continue to nourish this local interest with more initiatives, education and opportunities.”

The 20-year anniversary is aligned with the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s three primary goals: Supporting the next generation of farmers and ranchers; rapidly scaling up investment in high-value agriculture/diversify market opportunities; and promoting and incentivizing soil, water and climate stewardship.

“As we celebrate the program’s 20th anniversary, we are not only supporting the current generation of ag producers and ag businesses, but also building a foundation for future generations of farmers and ranchers,” said Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture Kate Greenberg. “Meanwhile, Colorado Proud also educates consumers about how essential agriculture is to our way of life, and how much we all depend on farmers and ranchers to care for the land and continue to grow healthy and delicious food for our communities. The Next Generation of Ag tour is a great way for everybody to experience that connection with agriculture. I invite consumers to visit one of these events to enjoy the tastes of the season and get to know the neighbors who grow our food.”

Besides its new logo, introduced earlier this summer, Colorado Proud will host its annual School Meal Day on Sept. 18 for the next generation of consumers.

In addition, an agriculture symposium for farmers, ranchers, retailers and industry leaders is scheduled for Oct. 16. This educational collaborative is available for industry participants only (not open to the public) and will include a panel of ag experts and open dialogue for discussing complex agriculture issues, trends and solutions.

Colorado agriculture consistently ranks as one of the state’s leading industries, advancing the state’s economy and preserving natural land, the release stated, noting more than 38,000 farms encompassing nearly 32 million acres, providing more than 170,000 jobs, contributing more than $40 billion to the state’s economy annually, and exporting nearly $2 billion in products. Colorado ranks in the top 10 nationally for production of a variety of agricultural products.

“Agriculture and local buying will continue to improve Colorado business and lifestyle, making our state even better and playing an important role in our culture.  It’s also putting us back in touch with our communities. We are grateful for the social influence of what we used to call a ‘trend,’ but that we now see is an important part of Colorado’s culture and economy — a mainstay,” White said.

Victory Motors brings in $100K in Cancer Drive

The Victory Motors Cancer Drive saw another successful year raising money for the Moffat County Cancer Society over the weekend, surpassing $100,000 in donations during its six years in Craig.

Beginning the annual cancer drive in 2014, the Maneotis family — owners of Victory Motors — offered a variety of activities for Moffat County residents, including a casino night at the Quality Inn & Suites where participants indulged in some light gambling, a silent auction, and dinner.

Other activities over the weekend included a Denver Broncos autograph session at Victory Motors, and the third annual Rick Upchurch Drive 4 Life Golf Tournament at Yampa Valley Golf Course on Sunday.

The casino night saw an estimated 150 people, and the golf tournament had a total of 20 teams compete with trips to Cancun, Mexico and a trip for 2 to the Pebble Beach Lodge in California as the ultimate prizes.

“We want to always look for ways to keep the activities affordable and fun, but keep focused on what we’re here for,” Steve Maneotis said. “Sometimes until it strikes you or a loved one near you, you don’t know how much it will impact.”

Upchurch and the Maneotis family came together to fight cancer when their families found themselves in similar circumstances. Upchurch is a customer at Victory Motors, and formed a relationship with the Maneotis family through business and a mutual aversion to the impact cancer has had on their lives.

Upchurch, a former Denver Broncos wide receiver was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia in 2013, and Irene Kitzman of the Maneotis family was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer around the same time. Looking for ways to help raise awareness and help fund treatments for cancer, the Maneotis family began the Victory Motors Cancer Drive with Upchurch teaming up with them in 2016.

According to the World Health Organization, cancer is the second leading cause of death globally, and an estimated 9.6 million people lost their battle with the health issue in 2018. The economic impact of cancer is also growing at a significant rate. The total economic cost of cancer in 2010 was estimated at approximately $1.16 trillion. The two most common forms of cancer are lung and breast cancer, with nearly 2.09 million cases worldwide each.

In a study conducted by WHO, tobacco use is the single most important health factor leading to cancer, being responsible for approximately 22% of cancer related deaths. Other major risk factors include excessive alcohol use, unhealthy diets, and physical inactivity.

“I don’t get frustrated, I’m encouraged,” Upchurch said of his own trials with fighting cancer and the work involved with fundraisers. “You never know when your alarm is going to sound in your home — lord willing, it doesn’t.”

During the cancer drive, $50 per vehicle purchased at Victory Motors was donated to the Moffat County Cancer Society. On top of that, customers also get to select $125 in merchandise from Collectibles You Need, a business based out of Las Vegas that sells autographed sports memorabilia. Of that $125 worth of merchandise, 25% of it goes to the Moffat County Cancer Society.

“All of the money raised stays here in Moffat County,” Upchurch said. 

The cancer drive was made possible through a partnership with Upchurch, and Marty Rodick of Collectibles You Need as well as a lengthy list of sponsors in Moffat and Routt counties.

“No matter how big or small, we appreciate everyone’s support,” Maneotis said.

Moffat County kids prep for year to come at Love INC Back-to-School Fair

Before heading to the classroom for a new year of learning, Moffat County children and their parents were able to load up on some handy materials this weekend.

The annual Back-to-School Fair hosted by Love in the Name of Christ of the Yampa Valley set up shop Saturday morning in Craig City Park, providing an array of school supplies and more for families readying for a new school year.

The event has shifted locations from Alice Pleasant Park to Breeze Park before this year. Love INC Director Pat Jones said Breeze’s current maintenance had them move to City Park, which ultimately was a benefit.

Moffat County School District offers information for kids and families during the Love INC Back-to-School Fair.
Andy Bockelman

“We were really able to spread out nicely here,” she said. “It’s a great spot. Wish I’d thought of it before. It’s just been wonderful, what a good turnout.”

A giveaway of donated backpacks regularly proves to be one of the biggest draws for the fair, and this year was no exception. Jones said that the event had exhausted its supplies, though Love INC will continue to offer free backpacks for any families who contact them into September at 970-826-4400.

“If parents do the paperwork, we can bring them to them at their house,” she said.

The staff of Stylz Fifth Avenue provides free haircuts for kids during the Love INC Back-to-School Fair.
Andy Bockelman

In addition to a bounce house and games for the younger crowd, businesses were also in on the effort, including Stylz Fifth Avenue offering free haircuts to kids.

Walmart’s Randie Craft and Sofia Rodriguez display free bars of scented soap available for families during the Love INC Back-to-School Fair.
Andy Bockelman

Walmart employees Randie Craft and Sofia Rodriguez were handing out scented soaps, popsicles and more provided by the retail outlet.

“It’s our way to give back more to the community,” Rodrigruez said.

Moffat County School District was set up with information for parents and additional items for kids, while Moffat County Department of Human Services offered info about foster families among other items.

Annette Norton with Department of Human Services passes out information for families during the Love INC Back-to-School Fair.
Andy Bockelman

The Journey at First Baptist, Friendship United Methodist Church, Northwest Colorado Health, GOAL Academy, and Open Heart Advocates were among those aiding the day, as were Craig Police Department with information on the DARE program and Colorado State Patrol with toys and more promoting safety information.

“We talked about 911 and when to call and when not to call,” said Carlene Sanders, CSP regional communications supervisor. “It’s all about getting out important information at their age.”

Sanders said kids responded very favorably to law enforcement personnel at the fair, losing count of how many stopped by their booth.

“I had two little girls who love State Patrol, specifically, since they got to sit in cars at previous events,” Sanders said. “One of them is really interested in being an officer when she gets older. She’s like, 9, now, so I told her, ‘keep that thought! You’ll be a great officer!'”

Red Cross seeking Moffat County volunteers for free disaster training

American Red Cross of Western Colorado will be training Moffat County volunteers on disaster cycle services, psychological first aid, and more during sessions Saturday, Aug. 24, according to a news release from the organization.

“Have you ever heard of the five Initial Actions?” the Red Cross asks in its release. “If we are asked to respond to a disaster, such as a wildfire, typically these are the first five actions we take or activities we are planning for: sheltering, feeding, staffing the emergency operations center, damage assessment and public affairs and fundraising. There are many moving parts when these actions take place and we need your help to do it.”

The Red Cross is seen as the primary disaster relief agency in many rural counties throughout the nation.

“In many counties, Red Cross is looked to as the primary agency to provide mass care services to community members that have been impacted by disaster,” the release said. “If there are evacuations and a need for sheltering, we will be notified, and we need your help to be successful. We need to ensure that we have volunteers trained so we can respond quickly and efficiently.” 

Josh Stewart, the Red Cross’ volunteer recruitment manager in Colorado and Wyoming, said local Red Cross volunteers have dwindled over the years.

“We are thrilled to offer this training in Moffat County,” Stewart said. “We have gone through some attrition over the last few years and we need to build up our team in the area. These trainings provide the perfect starting point for any community member that is interested in becoming part of the Red Cross mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.  While we have some great folks in this part of our territory, we do absolutely need more volunteers. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you’re interested in signing up.”

For more information about training or volunteering with the Red Cross, contact Stewart at 970-242-6646 or joshua.stewart@redcross.org.

Living Well: Feeling sleepy all the time? It could be sleep apnea

Snoring can be a nuisance to your partner or your entire household, and some people who snore loudly can even wake themselves up. Visiting an ear, nose and throat doctor can help identify what’s causing the snoring so you and your loved ones can enjoy uninterrupted sleep.

Dr. Robert McLean, a board-certified ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialist and head/neck surgeon, said the main concerns of snoring are sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea. He shared with us the dangers of sleep apnea and how Memorial Regional Health can help treat the condition.

Dr. Robert McLean is a full-time ENT specialist and head/neck surgeon at Memorial Regional Health.
Courtesy Photo

What causes snoring?

Robert McLean: Snoring is caused by the same mechanism that allows a violin string to make sound — the back and forth motion. A more interesting question is this: where is the thing that is making the snoring sound? It is usually the soft palate, which is the back part of the roof of the mouth that includes the “hangy downy thing” (the uvula). It is also caused by the back part of the tongue as it turns downward in the throat.

What are the risks of snoring?

You mean aside from sore ribs from being elbowed by your sleeping partner or being banished to the couch? More seriously, the main issue that I worry about is sleep apnea or obstructive sleep apnea. The prefix “a-” means no or not which is added to the suffix “–pnea,” which refers to breath

Sleep apnea is a condition in which the person stops breathing or breathes very shallowly. This can definitely cause cardiac issues. But more importantly, it also causes quality of life issues. The times when breathing stops is during the individual’s deep sleep phase. The brain doesn’t like this, so it will kick itself out of the deep sleep. This can happen every minute or two. It’s like someone shaking you right when you get into the good, restful sleep. Patients routinely say, “I wake up like I haven’t slept at all the night before.”

What does an ENT specialist do for people who snore?

First and foremost, we need to determine whether sleep apnea is present. If we are dealing with only snoring, then the reality is that most insurances won’t pay for treatment. There are some treatment options that work, but there are lots of quick treatments. I try to go over these, too.

When is it time to see an ENT specialist for a snoring issue?

Are you being banished to the couch? When you wake up, do you feel tired? Has someone noticed you pausing your breathing while sleeping? These all are flags that indicate a need to come in and talk.

Ear, nose and throat services at MRH

Whether suffering from sleep-disordered breathing or frequent ear infections, there are many reasons you might need to see an ENT specialist, also known as an otolaryngologist. MRH’s ENT team works with children and adults to diagnose a variety of conditions.

Dr. Robert McLean is a full-time ENT specialist and head/neck surgeon at MRH. He brings 15 years of experience caring for both children and adults and is board certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology.

To make an appointment, call 970-826-8300.

How do you treat snoring issues?

There are a variety of interventions, both surgical and non-surgical. A great treatment for those that snore and have sleep apnea is the C-PAP machine. The C-PAP machine introduces air pressure to the throat to open up the air passage. There is definitely a “getting-used-to” period for the device. But for people that push through the first few weeks, it is described as a life changer by my patients.

What other ENT services offered at MRH would you like readers to know about?

Through the respiratory therapy department, we have an at-home screening tool for sleep apnea that will measure breathing and oxygen saturation during sleep. Best of all, it is free!

What else should readers know about snoring or ENT services at MRH

Sleep apnea is not just an adult issue. It affects kids, too. For example, one manifestation of sleep apnea in kids is bed-wetting. The thought is that these kids that snore prominently and have bed-wetting are breathing poorly, and this triggers the loss of bladder control. Parents are very happy to have the bed-wetting issue resolved with a simple surgical procedure.

Mountain lion killed after attacking hunter near Kremmling

KREMMLING — A man attacked by a mountain lion Saturday night near Kremmling did everything right when he fought back and stabbed the animal with a pocketknife, a spokesman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife said Friday.

The man was reportedly attacked around 9 p.m. while scouting out places to hunt elk around the Big Horn Park subdivision northeast of Kremmling. Authorities and their hounds tracked down the mountain lion at about 7 a.m. the next morning and killed it.

A necropsy revealed the mountain lion had only grass in his stomach, indicating the animal was hungry, said Mike Porras, a spokesman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Relaying details of the incident, Porras said the hunter saw the mountain lion before it attacked him. Upon spotting the animal, the hunter walked backwards slowly for about 200 yards until he tripped and fell and the mountain lion pounced.

The cat swiped at the hunter’s legs and caused minor injuries. Meanwhile, the hunter had a pocketknife with him and fought back by stabbing the mountain lion in the face, Porras said.

The following morning, authorities tracked the mountain lion, found it about 100 yards from where the attack occurred and killed the animal.

Porras said the mountain lion acted especially aggressive when authorities found it and even fought with the hounds that tracked him instead of running away, which is the typical reaction.

While the necropsy revealed the cat was likely hungry, it also showed the mountain lion, a young adult male, was in a good, healthy condition, Porras said.

With such a robust population of mountain lions in Colorado and so many people venturing into the backcountry, Porras hopes people will get educated about how to handle such encounters before going out.

Like the hunter, Porras said, someone should never turn around and run from a mountain lion. It’s much better to stay facing the animal and slowly back away, he explained.

When the cat pounced, the hunter fought back with whatever he had, in this case a pocketknife, and that was exactly what he should have done, Porras continued.

“So absolutely, he did everything right,” Porras said, adding that there was a mountain lion sighting in the subdivision about a week before the attack.