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Colorado Health Care Worries Rising & Mental Health Issue Increasing

DENVER (CBS4) – The raw numbers paint a familiar picture; Coloradans are worried about health care, putting it second only to increasing cost of living and housing in their concerns. There's a lot more to those worries and the new reality in a survey from the Colorado Health Foundation.

"Health care costs, mental health and drug and alcohol use are all seen as extremely or very serious problems by 67%, 63% and 58% of respondents respectively," the report stated.

It adds to concerns about everyday needs for Coloradans says Jace Woodrum, senior officer of public opinion insights for the Colorado Health Foundation.

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"This year, you've got cost of food, you've got cost of gasoline and you've got cost of housing, and in previous years it was health care and housing, health care and housing," he said.

Researchers talked with nearly 3000 people for the poll. It's believed people are unable to feed themselves and get appropriate medical care more often.

"When we're cutting back on meals, when we're cutting back on health care, it absolutely is affecting our health and well-being," said Woodrum.

"Skipping doctor appointments, medicine," said mom and fast food worker Alma Flores about what she's experienced. Her co-workers tell her, "I haven't been able to get my glucose test for a while, or my asthma medicine."

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Flores' three children are covered under Medicaid, but she is not. On Monday she was at the Stride Community Health Center in Del Mar. She hadn't had a physical for two years.

"Almost two years without it, so it's something out of my mind. Just waiting for results and hopefully it came back with everything right."

Her employer offers health insurance, but she cannot afford it.

"We use the resources that we have though various federal grants and state grants to be able to provide that high quality service for everyone," said Phil Amateis, East regional director of operations for Stride. "I think if really start structuring our focus around providing community based care like this to everyone, it will actually slowly lower health care costs across the board. Because we'll be able to have people deal with issues way earlier in the process and not let it get as far as it can go."

Flores had a worrisome lump not long ago that she was able to get help with.

"At one point I got scared because I thought I was going to get a little bump on my breast and then I have to get to the specialist."

But she was OK. It brings up the thought of a long term problem when she does not have health insurance.

"I do get scared sometimes whenever I feel like, what if I get something that I need to treat for so long?"

The question also becomes access. Many people don't know how to seek care, or are embarrassed. And the options are still too few.

"I think that's going to be an issue throughout all of health care throughout the entire state. There's not enough health care resources all the time," said Amateis.

"About half of Coloradans are postponing medical or dental care," said Woodrum.

Numbers are particularly worrisome when it comes to mental health. Two years ago, during periods of isolation in the pandemic, 52% said they were experiencing mental health strain. But now society has opened up more with businesses re-opened, mass gatherings allowed and mask mandates peeled back. Poll results show things have not only not improved, but have gotten worse.

"We had 61% of them say they've experienced, anxiety, depression loneliness or stress in the past year. And then when we asked are they getting any of the help they need, a huge number of people are not getting the help they need there," said Woodrum.

Some of the reasons cited were, accessing mental health care, including the cost of services, availability of appointments and uncertainty in how to find providers. The numbers were especially concerning among Coloradans of color said Woodrum.

"They had a lot of fear about judgment from co-workers. Friends and family when they thought about getting mental health care."

In addition one of the problems exacerbated by the pandemic among all Coloradans now seems to be a greater worry.

"Concern about alcohol and drug use is increasing; in 2020, 45% of Coloradans considered it a serious problem; in 2021, it was 50%, and in 2022, a majority of respondents (58%) now say it's a problem," said the poll.

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