09.19.19

Insurance coverage tapers down as mental health issues, vaping loom large

Boulder County’s uninsured rate remains low, thanks to the Affordable Care Act and local efforts to enroll low-income residents in publicly funded health programs.

Enrollment in Medicaid and Colorado’s Child Health Plan Plus was off about 10% at this writing from its highest point in 2017. Still, a large net gain of enrollees over the past decade gives officials hope our county has basically reached a saturation point in terms of people who are eligible.

Boulder County remains a magnet for cyclists and a good home for runners, hikers, walkers and others who love the ready access to the outdoors and hiking trails.

Yet there are worrying trends, as well.

Vaping among Boulder Valley high school students has accelerated quickly with many students apparently believing vaping is less hazardous than smoking. The fact that e-cigarettes are easy to conceal and aggressively advertised has contributed to increased use. Nearly half of high school students reported having vaped at least once, according to the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey.

Opioid use remains a worry, with more than 5 percent of high school students having taken an opioid pill that was not prescribed to them. On the positive side, marijuana use among teenagers has not increased among teenagers since legalization.

Colorado has the seventh highest suicide rate in the nation, a figure that has more or less remained unchanged. Access to mental health care in Boulder County is better than in many parts of the states, but it still falls short of the need in the community.

The percentage of students hospitalized for self-harm or attempted suicide was twice those who were hospitalized with injuries from auto accidents. LGBQ students made little or no progress with mental health, remaining much more likely to abuse substances, harm themselves or attempt suicide than heterosexual teens.

Decades after the de-institution of many mental health facilities, local jails continue to house prisoners who need mental health treatment. In response, Boulder County voters approved a ballot issue to expand the jail to allow for the diversion of non-violent offenders to a part of the jail that will allow them to participate in work release or other programs that better serve their needs.

by Cindy Sutter