Residents say behavioral health remains the top health issue in the Yampa Valley

Mary Brown places a note on a bulletin board in March during a community member input meeting. These spring 2022 member input meetings were part of the information gathering process for the recently released Yampa Valley 2022 Community Health Needs Assessment.
Suzie Romig/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Mental health is one of the leading reasons for hospitalization in the Yampa Valley, above heart disease, congestive heart failure, diabetes, all injuries and stroke.

So it makes sense that the top health priority identified in the recently released 2022 Yampa Valley Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) is behavioral health, which encompasses mental health.

“Using the combined three-year estimate from 2018 to 2020, mental health is the leading cause of hospitalization, followed by heart disease, in the region,” the CHNA report noted.

Moffat County’s mental health hospitalization rates were significantly higher with a rate of 3,273 per 100,000 residents compared to a rate of 2,352 in the region and 2,837 per 100,000 in Colorado, the report noted.

Respondents said the top four health problems in the Yampa Valley are related to behavioral health, including drug or substance use, misuse and abuse according to 67% of respondents, poor mental health (52%), suicide and suicide (50%). and social isolation (21%). The drugs of greatest concern to community members are opioids (68%), alcohol (56%), amphetamines (49%) and methamphetamines (45%).

“None of the information that was shared at CHNA was really surprising. It confirms the experiences of residents and providers in the Yampa Valley,” said Brittney Wilburn, executive director of the nonprofit The Health Partnership, a lead partner of the study

“My feeling is that COVID has exacerbated problems,” Wilburn said. “I think what we’re going to do in the next three years will historically show the impact that COVID had. The experiences that providers and people are having specific to accessing mental health care services have increased.”

Mental health is a concern among both adults and youth in the Yampa Valley. For example, Healthy Kids Colorado Survey The data noted that high school students experiencing depressive symptoms increased significantly in the region to 31.5% between 2015 and 2019, compared to 23.3% previously.

Wilburn said the more Valley residents have more mental health needs “we’re in a sad situation.”

“The medical and behavioral health providers needed to do this work cannot afford to live here and provide the services that are needed in our community,” Wilburn said. “We have to be creative in figuring out how to meet the medical and behavioral needs of the community.”

The recently released 2022 Yampa Valley Community Health Needs Assessment included community input meetings, community survey results, public health data and socioeconomic data.
The Health Partnership/courtesy photo

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration defines behavioral health as the promotion of emotional health, the prevention of mental illness and substance use disorders, and the treatment and services for mental and / or for the use of substances.

Wilburn said she found the connection between behavioral health and chronic conditions “really interesting.”

“There are many associations between behavioral health and other chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma and arthritis, so by prioritizing behavioral health, the Yampa Valley it will also address the prevalence of chronic diseases,” the report notes.

The second health priority defined in the evaluation is access to culturally and linguistically sensitive care.

“Access to culturally and linguistically responsive care and the challenge of not having enough providers are heightened for populations in the Yampa Valley with linguistic and/or cultural barriers to care,” the report notes . For example, members of the Hispanic or Latino community note “the feeling that providers think they tend to complain or take too long during visits.”

“It’s an underlying issue of health equity. It’s critical that everyone in the community has access to decent, high-quality care,” Wilburn said.

The report also highlights some of the top health priority factors that come as no surprise, such as buying food in the region is more expensive, housing costs are taking a toll on people, and hard-paying jobs are hard to come by to find The report notes that some residents also find it more difficult to meet basic needs, as public transport is not available in all sections of the valley.

The Community Health Needs Assessment provides an opportunity for public health agencies, hospitals, community health centers and other vital partners to identify health priorities and assist the Yampa Valley in program planning and the allocation of resources over the next three to five years. Partner agencies will use the assessment data, including Northwest Colorado Health, UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center, Routt County Public Health, United Way and Memorial Regional Health in Craig.

For this year’s CHNA report, which is completed every three years, a good sample of 1,167 community members responded to the survey. The report also listed cancer, chronic disease, and preventable or unintentional injuries as other community concerns.

The CHNA study was conducted from November 2021 to June 2022 and incorporated community input meetings, community survey results, public health data, and socioeconomic data. The report was prepared by Health Management Associates in Denver.

The full report is posted online at

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