Today, partnership is more important than ever when working to reduce factors that affect health in our community, such as homelessness, substance use, and mental health. On Tuesday, April 2, Boulder County Public Health (BCPH) will honor three community partnerships for their exemplary work in improving the health of people in Boulder County.
This year’s award recipients are the Bridge House: Resource Center and Ready to Work Program, Manhattan Middle School of Arts and Academics Gay/Straight Alliance (Allies), and Kid Connects, a program of Mental Health Partners.
The Bridge House Resource Center is a single point of access for homeless and indigent men and women to learn about and access services that can help them move toward self-sufficiency. The Resource Center offers immediate access to agencies that specialize in substance abuse treatment, employment opportunities, benefits, and housing. The Bridge House Ready to Work Program provides homeless adults with paid transitional work, where they can obtain skills, assistance with housing, and individualized support in hope of leading to permanent work.
Loss of work and/or unemployment can lead to loss of preventative health care services and often causes increased stress and unhealthy coping behaviors that subsequently impact emergency services. Access to targeted health, employment, and housing services greatly reduces the impact on these services.
“The homeless and working poor have been historically underserved in this area,” said Widd Medford, Boulder County Public Health Intensive Services Program manager. “Bridge House focuses resources and links people to services so they can become self-sufficient.”
Bridge House has collaborated with the Addiction Recovery Centers (ARC) Intensive Services Program to bring substance abuse services directly to their client base in the Resource Center. Homeless clients discharged from the ARC Valmont site are given transportation to the Resource Center, where they are enrolled, assessed, and given case-specific resources.
In 2010, Manhattan Middle School started the first middle school level gay/straight alliance (now called “Allies”) in the Boulder Valley School District. This school year, 113 students are involved in Allies; that’s one-fifth of the school enrollment.
Allies actively worked to change the culture of bullying and harassment at Manhattan Middle School by hosting events and sponsoring school movements. For example, they worked to eradicate the phrases, “that’s so gay,” and “that’s so retarded,” and handmade and delivered valentine cards to every student so everyone would know they were valued and loved.
The 2011 Boulder County Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) indicates that 42.9% of BVSD middle school students report being bullied on school property, and 18.6% report being electronically bullied. Among middle school students, 12.9% had seriously considered attempting suicide, and 8.1% had made such a plan.
“We know that students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ), or who are perceived to be LGBTQ, are different in appearance, or have developmental delays or learning disabilities, and are more likely to experience bullying and harassment,” said Heather Crate, Boulder County Public Health OASOS Program coordinator. “These students often internalize negative messaging and are at greater risk for negative health behaviors, such as substance use, self-harm, and risky sexual behavior, as well as depression and suicidal thoughts.”
By actively working to change the culture of bullying and harassment in their school, the Allies are helping to reduce the negative influences on students’ health. The effects can be seen in the halls and classrooms of the school, where students speak up and educate other students about safe and welcoming schools.
The Kid Connects program places consultants in child care settings and in family child care homes to identify and support children with challenging behaviors who may be experiencing developmental or mental health issues. The program integrates mental health, primary health care screening, and follow-up in the early care and education setting.
Kid Connects has been instrumental in targeting children at risk and working to improve the life skills of children, families, and early childhood educators related to mental health coping strategies. The program has shown a reduction in expulsion rates, an increase in school readiness, and a reduction of behavioral problems.
“Over the years, many children were identified with vision, hearing, and dental problems, which contributed to suboptimal learning and behavioral issues,” said Kim Strenge, Boulder County Public Health Child Health Promotion Program nurse. “Kid Connects has worked closely with early childhood educators to develop teaching strategies that support individual children based on their specific behavior issues.”
In 2012, Kid Connects placed consultants in 7 child care centers and 7 family child care homes, reaching over 440 children with on-site services. Over 300 enrolled children were screened for developmental and social emotional concerns; 16% of those screened had social and emotional concerns, and 20% had concerns in at least 1 domain of development.
The Boulder County Public Health Healthy Community Awards, developed in 2006, recognizes individuals and groups in the Boulder County community that address public health needs and issues. Up to three awards are given annually, and each recipient must have demonstrated the Boulder County Public Health mission and values in an exemplary way, developing and implementing strategies to protect, promote, and enhance the health and well-being of all people and the environment in Boulder County.
A Boulder County Public Health employee must nominate community members or organizations for the award, and a review committee of public health leaders selects award recipients.
This year’s awards will be presented at a reception from 2 to 4 p.m., April 2, in the Houston Room at the Clerk and Recorder’s office, 1750 33rd Street, Boulder, Colorado.