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Grand River Health is expanding for the future and keeping care local

With the red iron growing into the skyline above Graham Mesa many Rifle residents have noticed the new Grand River Health care center project near East Fifth Street and Ute Avenue.

The footprint of another GRH project, which began a few months later, is taking shape behind Grand River Health on south Rifle.

With the growth of the community in mind and the need to expand services, Grand River Health is undergoing the largest project since opening in the spring of 2003.

“We are currently at capacity here at the hospital, and having to divert people because we didn’t have enough beds,’ Grand River Health CEO Jim Coombs said.

“So we are expanding the bay capacity from 12 to 25 beds, and undergoing an expansion on services as well.”

Grand River worked with western Garfield County residents on the community-driven project, for which services they would like the hospital to offer in the future.

Excavation of the site for the Grand River Health expansion is near completion. General Contractor FCI will soon start work on the foundation for the three-story, more than 100,000-sqaure-foot additiong to the hospital. (Kyle Mills / Citizen Telegram)
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In November 2017 Grand River Hospital District voters passed an $89.4 million bond issue to cover a three-story approximately 100,000-square-foot hospital expansion and new 110,000-square-foot care center which will replace the existing E. Dene Moore Care Center.

The new hospital expansion, which is located on the south side of the existing 162,217-square-foot campus, is the largest single expansion in the facility’s history.

“The ground has been cleared, most of the excavation is done. All the utilities have been moved and placed.” Coombs said.

“We had to relocate our backup supply of propane, the oxygen tanks that supply the hospital for patients rooms, that also had to be moved. They are just about ready to start digging the holes for the piling that the foundation will go into.”

Combs said it is a huge project for the hospital.

A rendering of the expansion of Grand River Health.
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“It will give us all private rooms, and over the coming years there is going to be a domino-effect for areas to get backfilled and remodeled. There will be a host of smaller projects over the next number of years as capital comes available,” Coombs said.

The expansion will include an intensive care unit, cardiac rehab center and infusion center for cancer services.

“We won’t have a full-blown cancer program, but we will have that ability for providing weekly chemotherapy so you don’t have to drive a long ways. People can stay close to home and get that, especially afterwards when your not feeling well,” Coombs said. “We will have an ICU and be able to keep higher acuity of patients here.” 

Grand River Health is also planning for the future, with the third floor being shelled space to complete later.

Construction crews are working on excavating the sight forthe new three-story expansion to Grand RIver Health in south Rifle. (Kyle Mills / Citizen Telegram)
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“It will create the capacity of this hospital for the next 20 to 30 years. The expansion has a little bit of shell space for additional capacity to expand down the road. We would be able to add more beds beyond the 25 at some point in the future as the community grows without having to build a completely new space.” Coombs said.

Due to a groundwater issue the patient wing expansion project is 4-6 months behind schedule.

Annick Pruett, administrative director and community relations with Grand River, said the water issue was discovered as they were excavating.

“There was a lot of groundwater, and they were trying to find out where it came from. Turns out it was the irrigation water from our neighbors that had not been flowing properly,” Pruett said. 

With the help of FCI, the general contractor on the project, new trenches were built for the neighboring farm and Grand River Health offered to feed their livestock during that time.

A rendering of the expansion of Grand River Health.
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“You’re always nervous when you ask someone to turn off their irrigation water when they are in the middle of growing hay, but they were open about it. FCI, general contractor, was great about saying they would do whatever it takes. They were able to mitigate that and plan for the future and moving forward.

Pruett added over time that the expansion will create about 200 jobs in the community.

The patient wing project is slated to be completed mid-summer to early fall of 2021.

“There are still a few variables to put an exact date on it,” Coombs said.

A CARE CENTER FOR THE 21ST CENTURY

Opened in 1968, E. Dene Moore Care Center currently has the capacity of 50 beds in the 27,000-square-foot facility.

The facility offers skilled nursing services, physical, occupational, and speech therapy.

Spaulding said that 60% of the care center population comes in for care after knee and hip replacements before returning home.

Currently, 40% percent are full-time residents.

“The care center is very similar, we are at capacity, it’s an old building and we were really at the point if it didn’t pass we were going to have to shut it down” Coombs said.

“We’ve been using a lot of duct tape the last couple of years.”

The new care center will have 87 private rooms for residents and a town square feature that will have a café, gathering area for music, a general store, spa and salon.

Offering a “neighborhoods concept” at 110,000-square feet, the new facility will triple the size of the existing care center.

Iron workers piece together the structural beams for the Grand RIver Health Care Center in Rifle Wednesday morning. The 110,000-square-foot structure will replace the E. Dene Moore facility and is slated to open in 2021. The Bears open their playoff run with a runaway 48-15 victory over the Englewood Pirates last Saturday at Bears Stadium
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“Each neighborhood will have 18 beds; there is an option of one shared room in each neighborhood. The rest will all be private, which will be incredible for residents,” GRH Patient Experience Officer Kenda Spaulding said.

Currently, there are four residents to each bathroom; in the new care center each resident will have his or her own private bathroom.

“I marvel that originally the care center had three people to a room. It kind of shows you how much long-term care has progressed. It’s not your grandmother’s nursing home anymore, it’s really come a long way, much more person-centered,” Pruett said.

New to the care center will be a fifth section dedicated to memory care, which will have 15 rooms.

The residents are incredibly excited they have a viewing area. They watch everything that is happening through a big window,” Spaulding said. “I’ve yet to hear a single complaint about noise or vibration, because they are so excited.”

Grand River Health officials expect a certificate of occupancy to be obtained by Nov.-Dec. 2020, with residents able to move in January of 2021.

“Once we open those three neighborhoods, that would allow us to tear down the old building, which I’m sure will have some mixed feelings because it has taken care of a lot people and been a part of the community for so long,” Spaulding said.

kmills@postindependent.com

Four-hour rescue removes suicidal woman from Vail cliff

Emergency crews from five agencies worked together Monday to pull a suicidal woman off an 80-foot ledge a mile and a half above Vail on Red Sandstone Road.

“I’m thankful that this incident had a safe resolution as our crews were facing a number of hazards which included cold temperatures, steep icy slopes and falling rock,” Vail Fire Chief Mark Novak said in a statement.

According to information from the town of Vail, crews were called out at 12:45 p.m. Monday, when they received a report about a suicidal woman trapped on an 80-foot cliff a mile and a half above Vail on Red Sandstone Road, also called Piney Road.

The cliff was across the canyon from Red Sandstone Road. Once the patient was located, crews had to descend 400 feet to the bottom of the canyon, cross Red Sandstone Creek and then climb several hundred feet to make voice contact with the victim. Eagle County Sheriff’s deputies were able to talk to the victim from a distance and convinced her to move away from the ledge.

A member of Vail Mountain Rescue climbed above the woman and then rappelled down the cliff face to her. Once the victim was off the ledge, crews from the Vail Fire Department and Vail Mountain Rescue used a rope system to lower the patient to the bottom of the canyon.

Crews helped the woman climb out of the canyon.

Because access was difficult and the climb was technical, the rescue took four hours. There have been 10 suicides in Eagle County this year, according to coroner Kara Bettis, following 17 in 2018.

Crews from the Vail Police Department, the Vail Public Safety Communication Center and Eagle County Paramedic Services also assisted.

Stop the Bleed can help keep people alive until emergency help arrives

The Stop the Bleed awareness campaign has trained over 1 million people on how to assist someone with severe bleeding until emergency help arrives.

“People bleed to death in five to eight minutes,” Jen Elias, Valley View Hospital Trauma Program manager, said. “It can happen just that fast.”

Elias and first responders have taught the Stop the Bleed program to Valley View Hospital and Holy Cross Energy employees and Glenwood Springs High School students.

Next, Elias will teach the course to students at Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale.

“Two goals of the entire program are to identify what life-threatening bleeding looks like and how to fix it,” Elias said. “Whether you pack a wound, whether you just apply pressure or whether you put a tourniquet on.”

A grant funded 80 tourniquets in Glenwood Springs High School, and Valley View Hospital has pledged to install tourniquet and gauze kits in non-critical areas.

“Kits are being placed strategically, everywhere that you would find an AED [Automated External Defibrillator] they are trying to get Stop the Bleed kits that just have a tourniquet and some gauze,” Elias said.

The Stop the Bleed national public awareness campaign started in Oct. 2015.

Following the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, a group of trauma surgeons partnered with public officials and first responders to develop professional recommendations for improving survival rates for individuals with severe bleeding.

“Of course, before all of this, we tell them your safety is most important,” Elias said. “The last thing you need is another victim.”

According to Elias, in addition to ensuring ones own safety and calling 911, the 45-minute presentation gets hands-on.

“How to put on a tourniquet and how it feels once its on…one of the most important things when it comes to tourniquets is just knowing how painful they can be especially when they’re on appropriately,” Elias said.

Elias will present at Roaring Fork High School on Nov. 12, 14 and 19 and hopes to continue to teach the curriculum to schools and businesses throughout the region.

mabennett@postindependent.com

Torres column: Use power instead of force

I recently got two puppies, and I was potty training them. I am not an expert in the subject, and therefore my puppies had a lot of accidents in the house. I used the two usual training methods: punishment and reward. What I noticed is they learned faster when I gave them rewards than when I was punishing them. In fact, when they were punished, they even got confused and did not know what to do when I gave them rewards. However, confirming with them that they did something against the rules also helped them understand what they should be doing.

I also noticed in my career that people get courage and motivation when there is a reward for their effort, and there is no better reward than achieving their goals. In addition, helping people understand their mistakes and how those mistakes are keeping them from getting to their goals is very helpful.

When there is punishment there is force, and when there is reward there is power. This is the topic that I am reading in a book call Force vs Power.

A train needs to be supplied with fuel to produce force to overcome inertia. As more force is produced, there is more resistance. So there is a constant fight that requires energy supply.

Gandhi use power against the force of Britain, Martin Luther King Jr. used power against the force of discrimination, and Jesus used power against the force of his enemies.

The point is it doesn’t matter how strong force is, power will always defeat it. Force needs a constant energy supply, but power is just there. Power is smart, prepared, patient, decisive, persistent and peaceful. These are only some of the characteristics of Gandhi, Martin and Jesus.

Many times when members start with our program they come very excited to change, or I help them to become very motivated about achieving their weight-loss goals. However, when we start creating a plan, I notice that many want to use force to achieve their goals. They want to follow a diet, a trend or a belief they don’t even understand. This is why many people can’t reach their goals — or when they do they end up regaining the weight — because of the constant energy required to produce force.

However, when we use power instead of force, losing weight becomes easier. You probably have read one of my articles or watched one of my videos where I suggest finding the real reasons you want to lose weight. When you are using your whys you start to use power, because now you are not just forcing yourself to follow a diet. Now you have reasons to change your eating. For example, one of my reasons to eat healthily is I want to preserve my body young, strong and healthy because I like how I feel and how I look. I don’t let myself get overweight or weak. I don’t use force to avoid processed foods — I use my reasoning (power) instead.

Another way you can use power is by understanding your real needs rather than your wants. For example, you need four basic chemicals (dopamine, endorphins, serotonin and oxytocin) to be happy, and you can produce every single one naturally. For instance, you can produce dopamine by exercising, endorphins by constantly progressing and achieving your goals, serotonin by mentoring and being mentored and oxytocin simply by loving or healthily bonding with others.

In these ways you are using power. Or you can use force, by using psychiatric drugs, cocaine, heroin, alcohol, irresponsible sex or video games, behaviors that will cause negative consequences to come into your life. And don’t misinterpret my meaning; I am not saying that playing videos games, for example, is bad. I am just saying that making these behaviors the source of your chemical will create an addiction, using force to get what you need to be happy.

I have helped many people to lose weight, and they continue with me losing weight, and others are capable enough to do it alone after they learn how to use power instead of force. Following a trendy diet or superficially having a reward is never better than the real reasons you are losing weight and the knowledge of understanding yourself. Power defeats force.

This year start with the right program and mindset with your weight-loss program. Find your power instead of your force.

Sandro Torres is owner of Custom Body Fitness in Carbondale and Glenwood Springs and author of the book “Lose Weight Permanently.” His column appears on the second Monday of the month in Body & More.

Doctor’s Tip: It’s all about whether genes are turned on or off

This is the third in a series of weekly columns based on Dr. Dean Ornish’s recent book “Undo It, How Simple Lifestyle Changes Can Reverse Most Chronic Diseases.” The book makes the case that lifestyle changes are more powerful than gene-based therapies are or ever will be.

Patients are often fatalistic about their genetics. For example, they think that if diabetes, heart disease or cancer run in their family they will end up with these conditions, too. However, there’s a saying in medicine that “genetics loads the gun, but environment pulls the trigger.” In other words, you don’t have to be a victim of your genes. Dr. Ornish has shown that lifestyle improvements “actually changes your genes — turning on (upregulating) genes that facilitate health and turning off (downregulating) genes that cause chronic inflammation, oxidative stress, and other mechanisms causing disease.”

Dr. Ornish’s studies have shown that certain proteins serve as switches that turn genes on and off. These switches respond to lifestyle changes summarized as “eat well, move more, stress less, love more.” In one study he found that “more than 500 genes were favorably changed in study participants after only three months on our lifestyle medicine program!” — a program covered by Medicare and several insurance plans.

Sirtuins — “good guys”– are enzymes that “wrap your DNA around … histone proteins as a way of turning off harmful genes.” They are important in slowing aging and in preventing many chronic diseases. AGEs (advanced glycation end products) — “bad guys” — suppress the anti-aging and disease prevention effects of sirtuins, resulting in a higher incidence of many chronic diseases, including cataracts, macular degeneration, hypertension, atherosclerosis, heart failure, stroke anemia, kidney disease, osteoporosis, dementia and age-related muscle loss. Animal products, especially cooked ones, are high in these harmful AGEs. A soy burger cooked in a microwave has 20 AGE units, a beefsteak cooked in a pan with olive oil has 9,052 units, a barbecued chicken thigh has 16,668 AGE units.

TOR controls cell growth and metabolism, and is necessary in growing children. However, in adults TOR contributes to aging and to certain cancers — particularly breast and prostate. Animal products upregulate TOR, in part due to the amino acid leucine found in meat, chicken, fish and dairy. Plant-based foods downregulate it — particularly cruciferous vegetables (e.g. broccoli, cauliflower), blueberries, strawberries, green tea, soy milk and spices such as turmeric.

In Dr. Ornish’s Lifestyle Heart Trial, he found that “the primary determinant of the amount of weight lost was the degree of adherence to our lifestyle medicine program, not age or genetics.” Whether health-promoting genes are turned on or disease-promoting genes are turned off is determined not only by what we eat, but also by whether we exercise, are stressed, or have loving relationships.

In summary, our genes are important in determining our propensity for developing many diseases, but whether or not we actually get them is determined by whether these genes are turned on or off. And our lifestyle plays a huge role in that. The Nov. 4 issue of Time magazine is dedicated to amazing health innovations. Some of these innovations hold promise for some relatively rare diseases. However, an inexpensive, low tech solution to most of the chronic diseases Americans suffer from us is right in front of us three times a day.

Greg Feinsinger, M.D. is a retired family physician who has a nonprofit: Prevention and Treatment of Disease Through Nutrition. He gives a free presentation at 7 p.m. the first Monday of the month at the Third Street Center in Carbondale; is available by appointment for free consultations (379-5718); and conducts a shop-with-a-doc session at 10 a.m. the first Saturday of the month at Carbondale City Market.

Tobacco taxes pass in Glenwood Springs and New Castle

Voters in Glenwood Springs and New Castle approved separate tobacco and nicotine tax questions in Tuesday’s election. 

Glenwood Springs

Shortly after 8 p.m. over 60% of voters supported Ballot Issue 2A, whereas under 40% opposed it.

“We took some action on city council a couple of months ago with regards to a flavor ban and licensing,” Jonathan Godes, Glenwood Springs mayor, said. “[This issue passing] kind of validates that we were on the right path with where the community is at, and where we want to be when it comes to protecting our kids.”

Ballot Issue 2A asked Glenwood Springs voters whether or not taxes should be increased by up to $900,000 annually in 2020 and by such amounts which may be generated annually thereafter. The tax, which will take effect Jan. 1, 2020, will impose a new tax of 20 cents per cigarette or $4 per pack on 20 cigarettes sold.

Additionally, The tax will also impose a 40% sales tax on all other tobacco products sold, including e-cigarette devices. 

According to the ballot language the tax’s revenues will go toward drug, alcohol and tobacco prevention, cessation, treatment, enforcement, youth mental and physical health, detox facilities and other related city expenses. 

New Castle

For New Castle, nearly 70% of voters within the town of New Castle supported Ballot Issue 2B whereas a little over 30 percent opposed it as of 8 p.m. 

Ballot Issue 2B asked residents of New Castle whether or not taxes should be increased by up to $65,000 in 2020 and by such amounts, which may be generated annually thereafter. 

The tax, which will take effect Jan. 1, 2020, will impose a new tax of 16 cents per cigarette or $3.20 cents per pack of 20 cigarettes sold.

Additionally, the tax will increase by 10 cents annually for eight years until it reaches 20 cents per cigarette or $4 per pack of 20 cigarettes sold. 

Ballot Issues 2B will also impose a 40% sales tax on all other tobacco and nicotine products, including e-cigarettes devices.

“I am pretty ecstatic. It’s such a major health issue in our area and it’s a great start on inhibiting tobacco and vaping amongst the underage population,” Art Riddile, New Castle Mayor, said. 

mabennett@postindependent.com

Haims column: Avoid heartache and anxiety with estate planning

Once again, I am watching a client’s family being torn apart by sibling rivalry anxiety, and a deep sense of hopelessness. It’s hard to watch this happen time and time again. No, a loved one has not passed away — yet. And this is the problem.

When this family’s father passed away a few years ago, their mourning and sadness was somewhat isolated to just the emotional loss of their dad. His will clearly defined his final wishes and his financial affairs were, for the most part, in order. A couple years after their father’s passing, the adult children thought it best that their mother come live with the son here in Colorado. The son set up a checking and savings account at a local Colorado bank, had social security payments, investment accounts, and real estate interests redirected to the new account. All was good — so he thought.

Recently, the mother experienced a stroke while exercising and was hospitalized. She’s doing better now. However, while she was hospitalized, the family had been informed that they could not access many of their mother’s financial accounts nor her health care directives. It seems that when the mother moved here from another state, she was in good health and of sound mind. Her husband had efficiently managed the development of a trust and their medical and financial matters. Therefore, nobody had thought about the need to modify or add their names to financial accounts, medical powers of attorney documents, and HIPAA consent forms.

Fortunately, because the family’s mother lived, there is an opportunity to develop proper documents. Unfortunately, the finger pointing, criticism, bickering and guilt has likely caused irreversible harm amongst the family.

Be proactive — reactive can be costly and sad

Rich or poor, or somewhere in between, we all have ideas of what we’d like to see our future look like. More than likely, most people may not want to envision a time spent in court, arguing with sibling and other family members, or fighting with financial institutions and health providers to uphold end-of-life wishes and the management of personal assets.

Unfortunately, for people who have not taken the time to get educated about planning for end-of-life legal, financial and medical matters, heartache, turmoil, along with family and sibling quarrelling may be inevitable.

Estate planning does not only apply to wealthy individuals. If you or your aging loved one’s own property or other assets like stocks and bonds, it is important that you educate yourself about the importance of documents such as a will, advance directives, powers of attorney (both financial and health matters) and various types of trusts. Avoid the potential of formidable challenges by taking the time to understand how these documents may affect you and your aging loved ones.

Regrettably, outside of law school, there are few educational courses that teach people how to prepare for medical or financial emergencies in addition to the intricacies of the distribution of an estate. According to an article by Forbes, nearly 50% of Americans aged 55 and over have not created a will. Further, less than 20% of the people in this cohort have health care directives and the proper types of power of attorney.

When it comes managing your, or your loved one’s, health care and financial wishes upon death, laws are quite specific about who can participate in health care and financial related conversations and decisions.

The following are some of the documents one may need to have when developing an estate plan:

• general, limited, and durable power(s) of attorney.

• springing power of attorney

• disability trusts (children of passing parents)

• irrevocable/ revocable living trusts

• living will

• advance care directive

• HIPAA consent form

Proper and timely estate planning can really help during a time of family crisis. Preplanning will greatly assist family members and loved ones to know what medical and financial efforts you or your ill family member(s) would want. Further, having the proper documents in order will provide you and your family members the legal means to carry out those wishes.

At the end of the day, legal documents will not solve all problems. The best approach to developing a well-conceived “plan” will start with a conversation that occurs well before an unexpected issue arises. Speak with your partner, family and sibling(s) about what your wishes are.

Without proper legal documents, at best, assets may go to probate, and tax implications may eat away at your wealth/inheritance. At worst, family and loved ones may see the worst in each other.

If you are living a state other than where your legal documents were created (particularly medical power of attorney), you should check to make sure they conform to the state in which you are now residing. While most state laws often recognize powers of attorney that were validly created in another state, there are situations where problems may arise.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Glenwood Springs, Basalt, Aspen and the surrounding areas. He is an advocate for our elderly and is available to answer questions. His contact information is, www.visitingangels.com/comtns, 970-328-5526.

Mind Springs Health Announces Plans for new Glenwood Springs office

Come summer 2020, Mind Springs Health will be at a new location in Glenwood Springs.

Mind Springs Health’s Glenwood Springs office is currently located at 6916 Colorado Highway 82 on the south end of the city. However, next summer that office’s operation will relocate to 2802 S. Grand Ave.

“Renovations were needed if we were going to stay here in this facility. And, this current facility is not ADA compliant,” Roger Sheffield, Mind Springs Health vice president of development, said. “[The new] facility is all on one level, it’s ADA compliant and it’s a complete open space. So, we can come in and design it so that it meets the best needs of our patients.”

Mind Springs Health will sell its current property in Glenwood Springs. Additionally, Sheffield did not anticipate Mind Springs Health in Glenwood Springs needing to close at any point in order to facilitate the move.

“Absolutely, same staff,” Sheffield said. “Rather than coming to this facility to see your therapist, your counselor, your clinician, your caseworker, your psychiatrist you’ll just head over to the new building.”

Mind Springs Health’s new 16,000 square foot facility features “ample natural lighting designed to create a more welcoming and therapeutic experience,” a recent news release stated.

“It’s a proven fact that natural light helps people in their moods,” Sheffield said. “It’s going to be much more welcoming, as opposed to our current building. And the location is also more centrally located to the population base.”

Sheffield said the move had nothing to do with Mind Springs Health losing a contract with the state earlier this year to provide mobile and walk-in crisis services across its 10 county service region.

“Absolutely not,” Sheffield said. “Nothing to do with the state contract at all.”

Instead, Sheffield said the new facility had space for additional group meeting rooms and therapy offices.

“We could not be more excited about this move,” Sharon Raggio, Mind Springs Health president and CEO, said in a news release. “We believe that this more centrally located office will be better for our staff, our clients and for the entire Garfield County Community.”

Sheffield said once design plans were finalized, Mind Springs Health Glenwood Springs would announce a formal opening date.

mabennett@postindependent.com

Roaring Fork Schools looking for solutions to make food services more sustainable

Eating school lunch is a practical matter for Glenwood Springs High School junior Grace Hall.

She has a job and pays for her own gas and upkeep on a car. 

And, she admits her parents have agreed to pay the relatively nominal fee for her to stay on campus and eat in the school cafeteria.

“I kind of look at it as, would I rather go out to eat five times a week and spend that money? Or, do I have my lunch paid for and spend my money on better things,” Hall said.

Fellow senior Karla Trejo agrees. But that doesn’t mean there couldn’t be some improvements in the school lunch offerings, she said.

“The school food is pretty good, but they could definitely change up some things and make them better,” Trejo said. “I do think that they’re decent for people who don’t have the opportunity to go buy food, or don’t have time to make themselves food.”

But Hall and Trejo are in the very small minority among the nearly 1,000 students who attend Glenwood High.

According to Roaring Fork School District Food Services Director Michelle Hammond, only about 40 students per day participate in either the breakfast or lunch program at the school.

In September, the district suspended the breakfast program at Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale and at Basalt High School due to a combination of low participation and difficulty filling food service jobs.

Come lunch time in Glenwood, most high school students are piling into cars to go grab lunch at one of the local fast-food restaurants, or filing across Grand Avenue in droves to pick up something quick at the City Market grocery store.

“It’s better food … you can choose whatever you want,” said sophomore Sophia Mohl as she made the midday trek.

Senior Hunter Behnke returned from his City Market visit with a bag of Doritos and a Lunchables pack.

“I just like the grocery store food better,” he said. “The school lunch just seems fake — the texture, the taste — when you eat it, you’re just kind of settling for it.”

Student Anna Lara said the walk to and from the store also provides a good break, “so I don’t have to be stuck inside school all day.”

Seniors Ashland Stolley and Grant Weimer each picked up a southwestern chicken bowl — and a bag of doughnuts for Weimer to take home later.

“To be entirely honest, it’s cheap, and it’s quick and easy to walk across the street and come back,” Stolley said. “Most days, we do go out and drive to other places, though.”

Added Weimer, “I used to do hot lunches in elementary school …

“I always felt like it was kind of low-quality, like they just threw it in the microwave for 20 seconds or something.”

While participation in the school lunch program remains reasonably high at the elementary and middle school levels, the school district has been wrestling with how to make the district’s food services programs as a whole more sustainable.

Of 5,589 students in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt district schools, approximately 1,800 lunches and 600 breakfasts are served each day.

Many of those meals are provided at reduced rates or free, as 43% of students in the district qualify for free or reduced lunch under the National School Lunch Program.

Since passage of the federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act nearly a decade ago, the cost to keep up with all the nutritional and health rules and regulations have ballooned.

The program is now subsidized out of the district’s general fund to the tune of $220,000 a year.

“These are funds that previously would have benefitted district instructional programs,” according to a staff report to the Roaring Fork School board for its Oct. 23 meeting.

Rules prevent school lunches from differentiating between the nutritional needs of high school students versus elementary students, for instance. 

And, the portions are “incredibly specific,” the memo noted — each meal is required to contain a cup of milk, a half cup of fruit, three-quarters of a cup of vegetables, 1 ounce of grains and 1 ounce of meat or a meat alternative.

Each meal must also contain less than 1,230 milligrams of sodium.

Complicating matters is the labor situation that contributed to the two breakfast programs being suspended.

The district has 30 food-service workers when fully staffed. As of mid-October, however, the program was down four part-time and two full-time employees, according to the district.

At a starting wage of $14.30 an hour for cooks and $16.86/hour for managers, and with most positions offering only a part-time schedule, filling the positions has been difficult, according to the report.

The district has tried to combine available part-time jobs — for instance food service, bus drivers, building custodians and groundskeepers — into full-time positions, in an effort to make them more attractive and retain workers. But that has had limited success, said Shannon Pelland, chief financial officer for the school district.

On the legislative side, the district may also step up its lobbying efforts to try to lessen the regulatory burden and work around some of the obstacles, Roaring Fork Schools Superintendent Rob Stein said. 

Beyond that, “it’s about how creative we can get as a team to approach this,” he said. “That creativity is going to have to come by increasing participation in some way.”

The school board and district administration expect to continue the conversation about how to make food services more cost-effective as the yearly budget talks begin after the first of the year.

jstroud@postindependent.com

Women can now buy birth control at City Market without a doctor’s visit

Kroger Health announced Monday that pharmacists at its locations in Colorado, which include King Soopers and City Market stores, will start directly dispensing hormonal birth control, meaning women who get their medicine there can now skip a trip to the doctor’s office for select contraceptives.

The announcement follows a 2016 state law that gave women who are at least 18 the ability to receive birth control from pharmacists after completing a questionnaire, blood-pressure check and consultation.

Kroger Health has rolled out the new policy, which it says will increase access to birth control by making it convenient and less expensive, in six other states, including New Mexico and Utah. It is effective immediately, according to a news release.

“Now that our pharmacists in the specified divisions are able to prescribe hormonal contraceptives, the process is so much easier for women,” said Colleen Lindholz, president of Kroger Health, in a statement.

Women will be able to pick up birth control patches and self-administered hormonal contraceptive products directly from Kroger Health Clinics and from pharmacies at King Soopers and City Market, as well as Fred Meyers, QFC, Ralphs and Smith’s.

Read more via The Denver Post.