Public Health Weekly Updates

Good morning to all,

The First Regular Session of the Seventy-fourth General Assembly winds down this week, and much works remains before the final adjournment. ECPH will publish a breakdown of public health-related legislation in a future update. In the mean time, you can see the status of bills at the following trackers:

Healthy Communities News

New Resource to Prevent Youth Suicide

Yesterday CDPHE announced a new partnership between Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners and Second Wind Fund that will connect eligible youth who have experienced a suicidal crisis with licensed therapists. The initiative is an expansion of the existing Follow-Up Project, which has already provided more than 19,000 follow-up services to Coloradans since it began in 2018.


While the suicide rate for Colorado youth (ages 10-18) has remained statistically stable since 2016, Colorado continues to have among the highest rates of youth suicide in the country. This program will help young people struggling with suicidal despair overcome common barriers to care and connect with experienced, licensed mental health professionals. 


As part of the Follow-Up Project, CDPHE’s Office of Suicide Prevention funds Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners to reach out to individuals who have recently been part of an inpatient program or had a visit to an emergency department for suicide risk. With the individual’s consent, Follow-Up specialists with Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners contact the person regularly within the 30 days after discharge—when the risk of a suicide attempt or death is highest—to offer support, set goals, and connect them to resources. The new partnership with Second Wind Fund will build on that support by connecting youth ages 19 and younger, who are at risk for suicide, to therapists.


The Second Wind Fund is a Colorado-based organization that covers the cost of therapy for youth with barriers to care, including financial constraints, inadequate insurance coverage, and a lack of available providers in their area. After a young person is referred by the Follow-Up Project, Second Wind Fund will pay for 12 sessions of therapy at no cost to the youth or their caretakers and will help families navigate services. Providers are available in English and Spanish with translation services available for other languages.


Youth must be referred to Second Wind Fund by a participating emergency department or inpatient program in order to benefit from this referral pathway. However, parents and caregivers who are concerned their child may be experiencing thoughts of suicide can find immediate, free, and confidential support by calling Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493-TALK or by texting “TALK” to 38255.

Environmental Health News

Air Quality Awareness Week

This week is Air Quality Awareness Week, a federal initiative to share information with the public to protect and improve air quality. Sunshine, rain, higher temperatures, wind speed, air turbulence, and mixing depths all affect air quality.


There are many factors that can lead to poor air quality, but the two most common are related to elevated concentrations of ground-level ozone or particulate matter. Ground level ozone forms when nitrogen oxides from sources like vehicle exhaust and industrial emissions react with organic compounds in the presence of heat and sunlight. Ozone can cause a number of health problems, including coughing, breathing difficulty, and lung damage. Exposure to ozone can make the lungs more susceptible to infection, aggravate lung diseases, increase the frequency of asthma attacks, and increase the risk of early death from heart or lung disease


CDPHE's Air Pollution Control Division uses two reporting systems to inform the public about air quality conditions - the Air Quality Index (AQI) and the Visbility Standard Index (VSI). The AQI system reports levels of carbon monoxide (CO), ozone (O3), particulate matter smaller than 10 microns (PM10), particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and sulfur dioxide (SO2). The VSI system is a measure of the visual air quality in the Denver metro area, and corresponds to how clear the air is. When you see a brown cloud over metro Denver, the VSI is rated as “Extremely Poor.”


The AQI reporting system provides a simple, uniform way to report daily levels of air pollution. Year round, the Division's continuous monitoring system provides hourly levels of carbon monoxide, ozone, PM10, PM2.5, NO2, and SO2. These pollutants can harm human health. A National Ambient Air Quality Standard defines the maximum levels each pollutant can reach before unhealthy conditions exist.


After analyzing current data, Division staff convert the information about the individual pollutant concentrations into numbers on a scale - the AQI scale. The National Ambient Air Quality Standard for each pollutant equals 101 on the AQI scale. AQI reports greater than 100 generally indicate exceedances of a pollutant's standard. The higher the AQI reading, the worse the air quality. The AQI scale is described by six air quality categories: good, moderate, unhealthy for sensitive groups, unhealthy, very unhealthy, and hazardous.


The National Weather Service provides model forecast guidance for ozone, dust and fine particulate matter twice daily and smoke predictions once daily for next 48 hours. Air quality forecasts of unhealthy (code orange) or worse air quality get displayed on NWS warning maps as air quality alerts. When Air Quality Alerts are in effect, NWS suggests taking the following actions to stay safe and protect your health:

  • Stay informed about air quality conditions in your area.
  • Choose a less-strenuous activity.
  • Shorten and take more breaks during outdoor activity.
  • Reschedule activities to the morning or to another day.
  • Move your activity inside where ozone levels are usually lower.
  • Spend less time near busy roads.

Lead Poisoning Awareness

Lead is a type of metal that is found naturally on earth. Lead is in all parts of our environment -- the air, the soil, and our homes. While it has some beneficial uses, lead is toxic to humans. It can get into our bodies when we breathe in or swallow something that has lead in it or on it. Lead can affect almost every organ and system, but the main concern is the nervous system. Children under age 3 and pregnant people are at the highest risk of health impacts from lead.


Lead exposure is hard to detect. It can be hard to tell if a child is lead-poisoned because there may be no signs, or the signs may be hard to notice. To further complicate matters, signs and symptoms don't appear until dangerous amounts have accumulated in the body. Lead poisoning usually happens when a child eats or inhales small amounts of lead for a long time. Lead poisoning can also happen quickly if a person swallows something with lead, such as a toy, or paint chips. Some children need a simple blood test to find out if they have too much lead in their bodies.


Last June Governor Polis signed into law House Bill 22-1358, “Clean Water in Schools and Child Care Centers”. This new law requires each child care center, each family child care home, and each public school that serves any of grades preschool through fifth grade, on or before May 31, 2023, to test its drinking water sources by having a state-certified laboratory measure the lead content of water drawn from each drinking water source. Each public school that serves students in sixth, seventh, or eighth grade shall satisfy this requirement on or before November 30, 2024.


Within 30 days after receiving the results of a test, a child care center, family child care home, or public school that serves any of grades preschool through eighth grade (P-8 school) must make the results, as well as any associated lead remediation plans, publicly available on the child care center's, family child care home's, or P-8 school's website, if applicable, and report the results to CDPHE’s Water Quality Control Division.


Lead poisoning can harm health for a long time, even into adulthood. If you think you or your child may have lead poisoning, talk to a health care provider, or call ECPH to inquire about testing for elevated levels of lead in your body.

Communicable Disease Updates

FDA Approves First RSV Vaccine for Older Adults

Yesterday the U.S. Food & Drug Administration announced it has approved Arexvy, the first respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine approved for use in the United States. Arexvy is approved for the prevention of lower respiratory tract disease caused by RSV in individuals 60 years of age and older. RSV is a highly contagious virus that causes infections of the lungs and breathing passages in individuals of all age groups. RSV circulation is seasonal, typically starting during the fall and peaking in the winter. In older adults, RSV is a common cause of lower respiratory tract disease, which affects the lungs and can cause life-threatening pneumonia and bronchiolitis (swelling of the small airway passages in the lungs). According to the CDC, each year in the U.S., RSV leads to approximately 60,000-120,000 hospitalizations and 6,000-10,000 deaths among adults 65 years of age and older. 

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Dwayne Smith, MEd, MCHES®, CPST

Director, Elbert County Public Health

75 Ute Avenue

Kiowa, CO 80117

(303) 621-3202