From the Southwest to Douglas County, RHCs Take the Lead

In southwest Colorado, RHC Mary Dengler-Fry worked with youth on a digital storytelling project about resilience.
In southwest Colorado, RHC Mary Dengler-Fry worked with youth on a digital storytelling project about resilience.

By Rebecca Rapport, RHC Program Manager

In May, all 21 Regional Health Connectors gathered in Keystone, Colorado for a biannual retreat. We shared success stories, developed ideas for the future of the RHC role and program, and explored ways to strengthen partnerships with organizations around the state.

I’m a primary contact for 11 RHCs, which means I connect RHCs to statewide resources that support their work and help them plan and execute their projects. The retreat inspired me to think about all the RHCs have accomplished so far.

Though I am based in Denver, I’ve been traveling throughout Colorado to see the RHCs in action this year. A year and a half into the RHC program, it is amazing to see how each RHC is settling in to their community.

Here are just a few examples of the RHCs’ work throughout the state:

  • Meghan Prentiss (Region 14, Adams County) helped bring public health and social services to an event serving the homeless population in Adams County  in January. The event, called Point in Time, is an annual census of the Metro Denver homeless population. Thanks to Meghan’s work,  homeless individuals were able to access a variety of services when they completed the census . You won’t be surprised to hear that Meghan had a big smile on her face the whole time she was volunteering at the event, and she made everyone feel equally welcome and comfortable with her relaxed presence, regardless of their organization or background. (Read more about the RHCs’ work with Point in Time.)
  • Lexie Ellis (Region 7, Pueblo County) led Pueblo’s Substance Use Response Ecosystem with equal parts grace and force, even after coming off a few extremely stressful days at work. She led the group to make decisions about an upcoming community event using careful tools, plans, and documentation. Lexie has found a magical way to get coalition members to share their resources and capacity. It is obvious that the coalition members trust her fully. She advocates for them in other spaces, invites them to work collaboratively and share their efforts, and follows up diligently.
  • Cynthia Farrar (Region 21, Jefferson County) demonstrated her expertise in Jefferson County resources and clinical care when she took me to two very different clinics in one day. There is no other way to describe it other than Cynthia simply SPARKLES when she is talking with clinics – it is clear she’s in her element. Providers at both clinics were extremely enthusiastic about and grateful for the connections Cynthia offered to them. She can truly listen for the need and provide a resource to fill it, and she does this all in a super-organized process by documenting her interactions with every clinic.
  • Kaitlin Wolff (Region 15, Arapahoe County) facilitated a productive meeting for a Healthy Housing coalition in Arapahoe County. Even though the coalition had recently applied for funding and wasn’t awarded money, Kaitlin was able to help them prioritize their goals and identify ways to keep moving forward. Everyone left the meeting feeling committed to the work and confident it would move forward. In a room full of passionate and talkative advocates, Kaitlin’s directive facilitation skills kept the group on task and energized around a shared vision.
  • Dee Kessler (Region 8, San Luis Valley) brings as much energy to the San Luis Valley as she does to our RHC group! In just a few hours, we zipped around to visit a new integrated care clinic, listened in at a health system’s practice transformation meeting, and reviewed a new website for a local prevention coalition. Dee can work with partners from different sectors while helping people maintain focus on the goal of improving integrated care for all – and she brings lots of laughs wherever she goes!
  • Mike Orrill (Region 13, Upper Arkansas Valley) facilitated the second meeting of the Region 13 Opioid Coalition. Thanks to Mike’s leadership, the meeting was both informative and engaging, and created space for everyone to share their thoughts about assets and gaps in the region through facilitated activities. And, he conducted a Safe Zones training for a group of colleagues at Chaffee County Public Health. Mike is a gifted storyteller whose curiosity, honesty, and genuine personality made a difficult conversation easier for everyone. (Read more about Mike’s work in the Upper Arkansas Valley.)
  • Cassie Rogers (Region 6, Southeast Corner) excelled at authentically engaging community members when she hosted a mental health awareness lunch at Otero Junior College and invited students to attend, share their thoughts, and leave with stigma reduction materials. She’s disseminating statewide resources like Let’s Talk Colorado to towns who may not get them otherwise. She will leave no to-do list item unchecked on her mission to improve health in Southeast Colorado! She brings a balance of outside and insider perspective that allows her to identify assets and gaps, and make change in the region.
  • Laura Don (Region 3, Douglas County) continues to orchestrate an impressive and inspiring free clinic each month in Douglas County. The clinic is in a church basement and provides medical services, WIC enrollment, clothing, and other medical supplies like toothbrushes and sunscreen to folks without insurance. Laura’s social work background really shines in this environment where she is connecting both organizations and individuals to needed services. She is kind and helpful and very well connected to resources in the community.
  • Mary Dengler-Frey (Region 9, Southwest Corner) worked with Cortez Middle School and Sources of Strength to produce a digital storytelling project with youth about what makes them resilient, as part of her suicide prevention work. Not only did Mary help secure funding for the film equipment, she led a workshop with the students, used her creative and artistic eye to bring such beauty to the film, and spoke beautifully to the crowd at the community film screening about resiliency and youth prevention (in digestible language that everyone could understand). Without Mary, none of this work would be happening in Montezuma County.

As you can see, the RHCs are facilitating, strategizing, coordinating, and mobilizing community members, government agencies, local organizations, and medical providers to address the unique health challenges in their regions.

As we enter the summer and, soon, the second half of 2018, I’m looking forward to hearing and seeing even more progress from RHCs around the state. Check back for more stories and successes.