A look at the Summit issues

Topics for the 2004 Operation Healthy Communities Summit are as follows:

Breaking the Ice – The Chilling Facts About Methamphetamine Use: According to Operation Healthy Communities, methamphetamine use has been on the rise in La Plata County since the late ’90s. Easy to make and highly addictive, meth has become a huge concern among law enforcement, child protection services, schools and treatment providers.

“It’s growing so fast and has just roared to the surface,” said Operation Healthy Communities director Laura Lewis.

The session will look for ideas and solutions before the problem gets any worse, Lewis said.

Water – Thirst for a Solution: A burgeoning population combined with recent drought has created concern over water availability and usage. Lewis said this session will assess the current county water situation, including the proposed La Plata-Archuleta Water District, as well as long-term sustainability.

“We’ll be looking at water systems vs. wells and how water districts affect the rural/urban interface,” she said. “Basically, we need to decide whether these districts promote growth.”

Lewis said the pros and cons of such water delivery systems will be weighed, and conservation and annexation processes will be reviewed.

Children – Handle With Care: La Plata County does not have enough licensed child-care providers to meet current needs, especially for children younger than 4 and for those needing nighttime and weekend care, according to Operation Healthy Communities. Yet, 80 percent of the community’s women work, making child care a necessity.

“What we’re finding now is that it’s affecting so many community members,” said Lewis. “There’s just not enough day care.”

Of special concern, she said, are parents who work late-night or early morning hours.

“There’s no child care for anyone doing shift work,” she said. “Sadly enough it’s these people who really need access to it the most.”

This session will try to find viable solutions to the shortage, covering child-care costs and remedying low child-care worker salaries.

Safer Schools – No Bully Left Behind: School safety helps create an environment conducive to better learning, therefore, this session will look at what can be done to improve La Plata County’s schools.

Lewis said the session will include a panel of school administrators, and that parents, students and counselors also will weigh in on the subject. She said students were chosen by their teachers and asked to keep a record of things such as racist comments, fights and instances of segregation. She said the students will make a presentation on their findings.

Participants will try to develop specific and measurable steps that will assure safer local schools for children.

Planning in a Divergent County: Meshing the interests of rural and urban interest in terms of growth and progress will be the focus of this session. It also will address what is being done about growth and what needs to be done and how the community can get involved in the planning process. Lewis said city and county planners will take participants through the various stages of the development/planning process and solicit feedback.

“They will be trying to ask the community, ‘What do you need from us?’” Lewis said, adding that it will serve as “kind of an idiot’s guide to the planning process.”

The session will be more informational in nature, she said, educating participants on the planning process and identifying top growth issues that need attention.

An Apple a Day – Reducing Demand for the Limited Health Care Supply: With the cuts at Valley Wide Health Services, an already hurting health-care system was injured even more. While many groups are working on solutions such as making physicians more available, exploring the option of a health care district and building an inpatient psychiatric facility, these will take time to implement.

This session will look at what can be done now and how the community can work to promote personal responsibility for health and to prevent further strain on the system.

– Missy Votel






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