Commissioners hear health department progress report – by Daniel Smith – The Ark Valley Voice

Andrea Carlstrom, Chaffee County Public Health Director, told Chaffee County Commissioners this week that a County Environmental Health Assessment and Improvement Plan is in the process of being completed, with first community presentations will be in Poncha Springs and Buena Vista.

Carlstrom reported an annual site visit was held June 27, by the Connect for Health Colorado (Medicaid) program staff and the results were gratifying.

The program, administered by the Department of Regulatory Agencies, is a public, non-profit entity established by the Colorado General Assembly to create a health insurance Marketplace which also provides assistance in funding health insurance plans for clients.

“Nothing but positive comments from the Connect for Health staff regarding our enrollment site; and Chaffee Country is definitely a top performer in that program,” Carlstrom noted.

The department completed 195 health appointments under the program from mid-January through May 30, with 63 clients enrolling in a Connect for Health Marketplace plan, 50 enrolling in Medicaid, 22 enrolling in CHP+13, nine households with CHP+ and other marketplace plans and 38 clients provided additional health insurance assistance or education.

Senior Needs Assessment working group being assembled

Carlstrom reported the acceptance of a $15,000 grant by the Colorado NextFifty Initiative to conduct a countywide senior needs assessment and to help create a senior master plan.

Carlstrom said the department researched the foundation and found from a 2016 health assessment that Chaffee County is experiencing a ‘wave’ of older individuals; one in five residents were 65 or older then, which turned to one in four residents in 2018.

In the 2017 – 2021 Community Health Improvement Plan, the department chose Senior Services and Support as one of the top three priorities. The agency supports non-profits including Sage Generation, Ark Valley Helping Hand, and partnered in planning and a sponsor for the Engaging Aging Fair.

There are a lot of various needs that pop up in the community regarding seniors (50 years of age and older) and assessment of those needs is critical, she said.

“I’ve heard of recently [that] assisted living, affordable assisted living, a senior center, senior home care, transportation for seniors [and] lots of different topics have come up,” she said. “It’s public health’s job to conduct a thorough assessment to determine how to prioritize these needs and then come up with a plan, master plan – a strategic plan really – that would involve all or our community partners that are invested in the older population landscape.”

Carlstrom is gathering a working group to help drive the planning process and looking for additional interested parties willing to make a year-long time commitment for drafting a master plan. Interested parties can contact Carlstrom by phone (719-539-4510) or email

She also reported the Healthy Start Program, serving new families with newborns through 12 months of age. It is full through September, helping 36 families currently with nurse visits to educate on topics including breastfeeding, what to expect in the first weeks of a new child, safe sleep, depression screening and referrals, newborn behavior, developmental milestones, nutrition, exercise immunizations, dental health, solid food introduction, car seat inspections and more.

Carlstrom also told commissioners that in light of the high water levels this year, the department is examining ways to promote water safety through education and prevention. Citing the number of fatalities already this season on the Arkansas River, she noted that sometimes visitors became excited over the water levels enhancing recreational opportunities on the river, but might tend to forget about the safety considerations, so the department is looking at doing more in the way of promoting safety and drowning prevention campaigns.

A program for providing infant car seats for families in need is stocked with seats, and the department will be hosting a Car Seat Safety Class for the public in August. A car seat recycling station in August is also in the planning stages, she reported. A CDOT mini-grant may allow funds for establishing the recycling station.

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