Three-year grant will help address community housing, safety issues through training and advocacy work

June 4, 2018 – The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Health Equity Commission has awarded the Lake County Public Health Agency, the Interagency Oversight Group, and the Youth Master Plan/Health Equity Partnership a total of $750,000 in grant funds as part of its upcoming three-year funding cycle of the Health Disparities Grant Program (HDGP).

Full Circle of Lake County, the Lake County Department of Human Services, the Advocates of Lake County, the St. Vincent General Hospital District, the Lake County School District, and SolVista Health will all take a lead role in designing and implementing the project. Lake County Build a Generation will coordinate the collaboration.

The Lake County project, titled “Resilient Lake County,” aims to reduce health inequities for low-income and Latino residents. The project fits into the ongoing health equity work in Lake County, which works to ensure that all residents have opportunities for optimal health regardless of race, language, income or education.

Current Lake County youth data, as well as state-level data — which we can infer holds true in Lake County — show that lower-income and Latino residents have poorer health outcomes,” said Katie Baldassar, director of Lake County Build a Generation. “There is evidence to suggest that chronic stress from economic and environmental factors, such as challenges with housing and safety, contribute to these health inequities.”

The HDGP was created to reduce cancer, cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases in Colorado by funding prevention, early detection, and treatment programs for underrepresented populations and populations disproportionately affected by poor health. As part of this mission to reduce health inequities, HDGP funds programs that work to address the social, environmental and economic factors known to influence the health of individuals and communities. These factors — such as community safety, employment, social support, housing, transportation, and education — are referred to as upstream determinants of health because they can negatively impact the health of whole populations of people long before disease diagnoses.

A memo from the Health Equity Commission to the State Board of Health stated, “The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) acknowledges that generations-long social, economic and environmental inequities result in poorer health. They affect communities differently and have a greater influence on health than either individual choices or a person’s ability to access health care… Addressing these determinants presents an opportunity to prevent diseases from developing.”

Lake County Public Health Agency, the Interagency Oversight Group, and the Youth Master Plan/Health Equity Partnership will use the grant funds for two key initiatives that aim to reduce health inequities stemming from housing and community safety concerns.

The first is to remove barriers to seeking health and social services by ensuring community members feel welcome and safe at community agencies and organizations. The grant will fund self-assessment, staff training and implementation of trauma-informed policies and practices for a collaborative of local agencies. In addition to those agencies named above, the Lake County Public Library, the Lake County Sheriff’s Department, Get Outdoors Leadville!, Lake County Building and Land Use, the Lake County Probation Department and the Leadville Police Department have all committed to self-assessment and training work to become more trauma-informed.

“Anecdotally, we’ve heard that local agencies can do more to ensure residents feel welcome and respected when seeking services,” said Colleen Nielsen, director of Lake County Public Health Agency. “Local agencies should be a resource rather than a cause of stress, and the trauma-informed training will enable us to better serve our community.”

The second initiative is to increase the community’s capacity to address issues of housing and safety, particularly among low-income and Latino populations. This will be accomplished through community-led coalitions that will identify, prioritize and advocate for policy or systems changes pertaining to housing needs, specifically improvements to tenants’ rights.

“What we understand from local community members is that their housing and their experiences with local agencies are two key contributors to stress,” said Gloria Perez, Wraparound coordinator and current facilitator of the Interagency Oversight Group. “We also know that community members who don’t experience chronic stress are far less likely to have long-term health issues. That’s why we’re so excited about this project and its potential to contribute to our agencies’ ongoing work to make Lake County the healthiest place to live.”

Thirty-six community initiatives applied for the Health Disparities Grant Program. Resilient Lake County was one of nine projects selected for this grant cycle.