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Shaping the future of wellness in Garfield County

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On Monday afternoon, in a Third Street Center board room, Carbondale citizens were given the rare opportunity to directly voice the concerns of their community to Garfield County’s department of public health (GCPH). This was organized as the fifth in a series of six focus groups, each held across the county, assessing community health in order to inform the creation of the GCPH’s new Public Health Improvement Plan for the next five years.

Two citizens attended the hour-long meeting and were interviewed by Amanda Havens, county Public Health Planner, on their health concerns — both personal and community wide. Recurring themes in discussion included access to specialty care and addiction aftercare, as well as general anxiety and stress resulting from the rising cost of living and decreasing access to housing.

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The issues of mental health and stress as a result of cost-of-living were shared by both attendees, according to whom commuting places undue stress upon Valley citizens. As demand rises for professions that can only pay for lower-cost housing, the length and cost of the commute are rising, increasing stress. Simultaneously, greater social stratification has the potential to rise due to high housing costs, which may put at risk the sense of community across the Valley and make it difficult for citizens to emotionally support each other at moments of collective hardship.

The concerns voiced most frequently at the focus group seem to be common across the county, as when asked which issues recurred in the previous four focus groups, Havens replied: “Housing and mental health, absolutely.” Similarly, the previous Public Health Improvement Plan for 2018–22 listed mental health and healthy housing as primary issues to address, not just in Garfield County, but across Eagle and Pitkin counties as well.

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Public Health Improvement Plans are documents written in accordance with the 2008 Colorado Public Health Act, which requires “the coordinated efforts of state and local public health agencies and their public and private sector partners within the public health system to … develop a comprehensive plan and set priorities for providing essential public health services” (C.R.S. § 25-1-501). The documents — which list both primary health concerns and methods to identify and address them — are formed on a five-year basis from assessments taken by the county. A local action plan is necessary, as the diversity of Colorado communities may be lost under a blanket of statewide statistics. According to Havens, “The problems of someone in Silt could look totally different to someone in Denver.”

The previous plan for the years 2018–22 was written as a joint document between Eagle, Pitkin, and Garfield counties, and was largely informed not by concerned citizens but by stakeholders in the private and public health sector. However, for 2023–28, Garfield County will have its own action plan. This is largely due to the increase of resources and employment of Havens herself as the county’s public health planner. Additionally, the next plan will be informed by a three-part effort, consisting not only of one-on-one interviews with local health professionals and stakeholders, but also focus groups like the one held at the Third Street Center as well as an online Community Health Assessment, which is available to citizens across the County.

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Carbondale citizens who missed the opportunity to attend this meeting in person still have a chance to influence the future of Garfield County’s public health policy. The Community Health Assessment is located on the GCPH website ( and can be accessed in both Spanish and English. The survey is an opportunity for any citizen of Garfield County to positively shape the future of their community’s well-being for the next half-decade.

Tags: #Garfield County #public health #survey #Will Buzzerd
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