Farmers, ranchers take part in health care survey

Photo by Diane Drekmann Farmers and ranchers were invited to participate in a survey at The Painted Sage in San Luis conducted by the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. Attendees were treated to lunch.

SAN LUIS — Farmers and ranchers came to The Painted Sage in San Luis on March 4 to participate in a survey conducted by the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

Dr. Kathy James was the project leader. Francesca Macaluso from Anschutz explained the survey focused on behavioral health, "to work with peoples' needs, how to access health care, what they want and how to access it."

Anschutz connected with representatives of various counties in San Luis Valley. Shirley Romero Otero of Costilla County, Gus Basterrechea with Rio Grande/Alamosa, Christine Canaly of Saguache, and Anna Lee Vargas from Conejos County are "the boots on the ground,” said Anna Lee Vargas.

The anonymous survey asked questions about a person's emotional and mental health, stressors related to the job and resources available to assist individuals. People were treated to a lunch from Pepita's. Anyone who completed the survey received a $40 gift voucher for the San Luis People's Market, good until November 2023. People were also entered into a raffle to win one of two $100 Visa gift cards.

Vargas said the reason for the surveys is "the data (shows) where the gaps are. The data helps with funding."

There were booths featuring related studies and providing additional resources and information.

Another part of the gathering was free water quality testing kits for well owners in San Luis Valley. Otero said the testing of the water quality is the basis of an Anschutz study on drought conditions in the Valley and its effects. Otero stressed the importance of having water tested.

"Quality of water directly affects a person's health, especially pregnant women and children. The samples will be sent to Stanford University in California to be tested. If any contaminants are found, the well owners will get resources for free to address and fix the problem," Otero said.

Contact Otero at 970-640-8014 to obtain a free water quality testing kit — 1,000 kits are available. About 750 households have taken advantage of this service, according to Otero.

Whitney Pennington and Chasel Valdiviezo were at a booth supporting an organization called HICAHS, working with Colorado State University to "promote safe working practices in agriculture." There were ear plugs, respirators, and information on heat illness at the booth.

"With the sun more intense here, we are at a greater risk for heat illness because of where we are," Pennington said.

There was a booth focusing on the mental health of children ages infant to 5 years old. The Rocky Mountain Prevention Research Center (RMPRC) has partnered with the Early Childhood Council of the San Luis Valley on a project called STANCE, which looks at the effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) and Benevolent Childhood Experiences (BCE).

Studies have shown that many positive childhood experiences can combat or lessen the effects of negative experiences. Fifteen childcare centers across the San Luis Valley are participating in the STANCE project, including Tiny Hands Day Care in Blanca, and the pre-school programs at Centennial and Sierra Grande schools.

The study raises awareness about the effects of positive and negative experiences and provides resources available to parents, teachers, and caregivers. This five-year study is in its fourth year, continuing to make a positive difference for children.

The event took place at The Painted Sage in San Luis. Owners Robert and Evelyn Valdez Martinez were among the guests. Both are lifelong residents of San Luis Valley.

The data from this survey, and others will help gauge what resources are needed and what can be done to improve the lives of the people in San Luis Valley.