By Lyndsie Ferrell
DEL NORTE– Rio Grande County Commissioners welcomed Public Health Director Emily Brown for an update on the department during their meeting on April 25. Brown spoke to commissioners about the recent assessment the department has been conducting within the county and will be meeting with all the Valley counties to compile the data and share results. Brown continued to state that the public health office needs to be closed in order for staff to be able to prepare for the meeting and asked for board approval, which was granted.
In addition to the assessment, Brown stated that the department is also finished with the 2018 health rankings for the county. Brown explained that this is a compilation of data that is collected every year within counties throughout the state; the data will be reported to the Rio Grande Board of Health in June once all of it has been sorted through. The data from previous years will be compared to the recent data in order to find trends, improvements, increases or decreases within the certain health ranking.
Commissioner Gene Glover asked if the lack of services available in the county, such as the lack of public transportation, had any bearing on the results of the assessment. Brown stated that could have an effect on the results due to the inability some community members may have to get to doctor appointments or other health related opportunities. Brown also explained that most of the problems shown in the report are due to poverty, which has a high impact on the results.
Brown spoke about the increase in middle-aged deaths due to an increase in opioid addiction and have been steadily increasing over the years. Commissioner Karla Shriver asked that the data also be shared with the San Luis Valley Get Outdoors organization to help substantiate grants that could bring funding to the areas that need help. Glover also asked that the results be shared with Bustang, a new organization that is bringing public transportation to the Valley for the first time in years.
Brown continued her department update with a request to sign a contract with Stericycle, the company who is picking up needles in drop-off locations throughout the county. The service provides pickups at several locations quarterly, and more locations can be added as the need arises. Commissioners agreed to allow Brown to sign the contract online and asked that the procedure for pickups be shared with court personnel and security so that everyone is up to date.
Brown finished her report with the recent wind storm that took place in the Valley in mid-April; it generated a conversation at the Health Care Coalition meeting where some communication holes were identified and improved between Valley communities.
Commissioner Suzanne Bothell stated that the event was also discussed at a recent 911 meeting, and it was discovered that some of the emergency responders that handled the fires and accidents did not have maps available to them for certain areas around the Valley. That issue is being handled as well.