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County grants $35,000 to regional health alliance

Helps fill funding gap for operations aimed at food security, ending homelessness

April 17, 2024

Garfield County has granted $35,000 to the West Mountain Regional Health Alliance (WMRHA) toward funding its 2024 operations, which include expanding access to affordable, high-quality healthcare; improving food security; homelessness prevention; and advocating for underserved residents in Garfield, Pitkin, and Eagle counties. West Mountain Regional Health Alliance is a collaboration between local government agencies, healthcare providers, and regional organizations and nonprofits.

WMRHA Executive Director Cristina Gair told the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) that the alliance’s mission is to build an integrated healthcare system that provides optimal health for everyone in the west mountain region. She added that the alliance is looking to fill a $300,000 funding gap that is needed to cover the cost of operations in 2024, and that funding requests are going out to all partners, including Pitkin and Eagle counties.

“We’re looking to move forward with what we all want, which is a healthier community,” she said. “All of us know that housing and homelessness are real issues in our region, and we also know that food security is as well.”

Gair told the board that growth has been a challenge for the alliance, necessitating more funding as both the workload and workforce increase, and as more duties are performed in-house.

“Mountain Family Health Centers, who previously served as our fiscal agent, information technology, and human resources, decided that it was essential that we became our own stand-alone organization,” she said. “We’ve always been our own nonprofit, but we had those back-end things taken care of by another organization.”

Two initiatives that the alliance sponsors, the Valley Alliance to End Homelessness (VAEH) and the Mountain Coalition for Food Nutrition and Security (MCFNS), have met with success. In 2021, the valley alliance housed 20 people in the area, and that number grew to nearly 400 people in 2022-’23.

“This includes both families and individuals, and it’s really exciting,” Gair said. “The other thing that happened is that we’ve decreased the time it takes to house someone from 120 days, initially, down to 64.”

MCFNS is working with LIFT-UP, Food Bank of the Rockies, and Harvest for Hunger, among others, and 14 different partners are now passing out food totes in the region.

“Anyone who comes to a clinic and has that need will receive food,” Gair said.

The funding was approved unanimously, 2-0, and comes out of the Garfield County Department of Human Services approved budget.