Community Health Needs Assessment pinpoints behavioral health as a top priority issue in Moffat County
Behavioral health rose to the top of priority health concerns for Yampa Valley residents in a recent survey, and accompanying data showed that the issue may be even worse in Moffat County.
The Community Health Needs Assessment is completed every three years, led by the Health Partnership Serving Northwest Colorado, as well as 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 pinpoint the most important health issues, unhealthy behaviors and the most important factors for personal health across the Yampa Valley.
Five key strengths were identified in the assessment including a strong sense of community, cross-sector collaborations, access to the great outdoors, services for older adults 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 the Yampa Valley full-time year-round.
Of the respondents, 67% were female and 41% reported they are raising children in the Yampa Valley. Additionally, 22% identified as LGBTQ+ and 16% identified as Black, indigenous or a person of color, while 13% were Latinx or Hispanic.
Priority issues are identified by comparing community health concerns and a combination of the data. Yampa Valley residents identified the top two priorities as behavioral health and access to culturally and linguistically responsive care.
Community members reported the four worst health problems in the Yampa Valley as substance and drug abuse (76% in Moffat County and 63% in the Yampa Valley), poor mental health (50% Moffat, 53% Yampa Valley), suicide and suicidality (47% Moffat, 52% Yampa Valley), and social isolation (17% Moffat, 22% Yampa Valley).
The top two risk behaviors identified by community members included substance and drug abuse (56%) and alcohol misuse or abuse (46%), with the drugs of highest concern being opioids (68%), alcohol (56%), amphetamines (49%) and methamphetamines (45%).
One of the more important findings in the Community Health Needs Assessment was that the rate of emergency room use for drug overdose was significantly higher in Moffat County at 227.5 per 100,000 residents than it was across Colorado at 187.3 per 100,000 residents.
Also, mental health was the No. 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 both the region (2,352) and the state (2,837).
Overall, Moffat County has lower rates of hospitalization for heart disease, heart failure, diabetes, injury, stroke and attempted suicide compared to Colorado. However, Health Partnership Executive Director Brittney Wilburn said that often when patients are admitted for other things, there is an underlying behavioral health issue.
Across the region, there was also an increase in the percentage of residents who reported needing mental health care but not getting it, as that number rose from 9.1% in 2015 to 15.3% in 2021. The ratio of residents to mental health providers was also lower in Moffat County than it was across the state at 510:1 for Moffat County versus 250:1 for Colorado.
Other key drivers of health identified by the assessment were more expensive access to food in the region, rising housing costs across the Yampa Valley, difficulties in finding good paying jobs and a lack of regional public transportation, which makes 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 agencies.
Wilburn said the partnership is also reaching out to behavioral health providers to build a stronger network, understand who has more capacity and see if there are opportunities to increase acceptance for Medicaid clients.
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 Community Health Action Plan.
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