On the Ground in Arapahoe County
We kicked off the new year by launching a series of Denver-area tour events today, starting in Arapahoe County. Around 45 locals joined us at an event center in Centennial to talk health assets and barriers. Arapahoe represents the 49th county we’ve visited on the tour, and similar themes emerged that we’re hearing in many communities, including:
- Access and availability of quality childcare is a challenge. High turnover in early childhood settings coupled with affordability is driving fewer parents to work or causing them to drop out of school to take care of their children. Fewer women are entering the workforce and choosing to stay home, contributing to a gender gap.
- Strong school systems and higher education, including community colleges, are in abundance in the area but there is a shortage of school-based health supports and little to offer transitional age youth suffering from mental health issues.
- The community views people with special needs or developmental disabilities as assets versus liabilities, with outreach and opportunities available to children in particular. Parents were noted as important in the continuum of health advocates for children with disabilities. TABOR limits present funding challenges for this group. A tension also emerged between advocacy communities representing low-income mothers and those with disabilities related to metro bus use and strollers that take up reserved handicap seats. It also revealed a barrier in transporting multiple children or even one child on public bus transportation given the lack of space and rules about stroller use.
- Arapahoe County touts abundant trail systems and outdoor space for recreation, yet even with wholesome activities and opportunities for youth there are still significant substance abuse issues, particularly opioid and heroin use.
- Substance abuse in general was noted as being underfunded. Stigma remains around treatment for mental illness.
- The quality improvements required to ensure low-income families receive the same options as more affluent people drives funding divides.
- Local public health is nationally recognized and successful in securing funds focused on healthy living.
- Primary care access issues centered on providers not accepting Medicaid and transportation gaps. Integrated care is less available and a challenge to fund.