Last week, KREX 5 News told you about a new interactive map from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment which can show life expectancy based on where you live. The results of the map will help with a mission of Mesa County Public Health.
Mesa County Public Health has spearheaded a program aimed at connecting the residents of Clifton, and one of the most pivotal places they are focusing on is Rocky Mountain Elementary School. The school is a focal point of the Clifton Community Transformation Project. “School is the hub of the neighborhood, so that’s why being with the school is so important,” said Jeff Kuhr, the executive director of Mesa County Public Health.
The project hopes to connect the community through several avenues, including law enforcement, code enforcement, and human services. The new interactive map from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment will help them see what other areas they could concentrate on next. The map identified Clifton, a pocket of Orchard Mesa, and an area in Downtown Grand Junction as having the lowest life expectancy. “I feel like we pick on Clifton quite a bit, and to know that we’ve got some issues dispersed around Mesa County, it’s not good, but it’s interesting to see that data,” said Kuhr.
Kuhr said one of the most important ways to connect neighbors is the school system, where the program has been asking for feedback from the students and community members and then using their ideas. They have also held community events, have after school programs, and safe activities like movie nights where students can participate. Kuhr said the project is the result of over 80 organizations coming together, and trying to do their best in that certain community. “Want the community to trust you, and that’s what we’re doing. We’re building the resources to be able to respond so that our residents trust us, all of our agencies working together,” said Kuhr.
Starting in the school takes a proactive approach to issues any community may face, according to the principal of Rocky Mountain Elementary School. “We are a community that has some real needs and real struggles. But when parents are feeling like we’re connected, and students are feeling like we have more opportunities, and that we are wrapped around by this great community, it feels like those challenges can be overcome,” said Patti Virden, the principal at Rocky Mountain Elementary School.
It’s not just while students are in school that they are learning – it’s outside of school too. The Riverside Educational Center is one of the many partners involved in the project, and they offer after school programs at seven different schools throughout the Grand Valley.
When MCPH feels they have seen a significant impact in Clifton, they plan to work with Orchard Mesa and Downtown Grand Junction, the two other areas identified by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s study.