How to keep Eagle County special?
We can all agree that Eagle County is one of the best places to live in the world. After all, we choose to live here. From clean air and water, to open space and beautiful views, we’re all proud to call Eagle County home. What we may not agree on is what we must do to keep this a special place.Recently Eagle County conducted a health and quality of life survey, part of a larger community health assessment. We wanted to know what health and quality of life issues you are experiencing, and what’s preventing you from living the life you want. We heard from more than 500 of you, and the results were very compelling.We asked you if your household was affected by specific health and quality of life issues. Forty percent of you told us you had trouble getting medical care because of the cost and lack of insurance. While nearly 90 percent of Caucasians reported having health insurance, 32 percent of Hispanic respondents did not. More than 40 percent of you said you have problems getting dental care because of the cost and access to insurance. Thirteen percent said the lack of bike lanes on the county’s roads were a big safety issue.We also asked you if our community has adequate resources to ensure your health and quality of life. These include services, infrastructure, opportunities and policies. An overwhelming number of you said Eagle County has good air quality, fire protection, law enforcement, water quality and access to open space. However, you also told us our community was lacking in several critical areas. Sixty-one percent of you said we don’t have adequate access to affordable housing. Over 40 percent said our community lacks access to assisted-living facilities and jobs with career growth. More than a third of you are concerned about the lack of child care.There were other areas where you told us the community was lacking resources. After-school programs for children, job opportunities, medical and dental care, recycling programs and recreational opportunities made the list.Eagle County is a great place to live, but we can do better. To truly provide for the quality of life you told us you want, and to provide a better future for our children, we need to work together to address the critical needs you told us about. Eagle County government has goals to address many of these issues. We want to help reduce the number of emergency room visits, detect cancers earlier, and lower the teen birth rate. We’d like to reduce death and injury rates from motor vehicle crashes, and work on addressing the other needs you identified in the health assessment.Eagle County has taken big steps in the past year to work on some of these goals. On the strong recommendation of voters, my fellow commissioners and I passed a comprehensive smoking ban designed to protect the public from the serious health effects of smoking. The county recently established a family planning clinic that offers birth control, sexually transmitted disease treatment and cancer screening. In the future, we’ll work on establishing a community health center offering medical and dental services, disease management, health screenings and more. We’ll work to ensure optimal fluoride levels in water supplies, and to reduce the speed limit along certain sections of I-70. The county will also push for education on graduated driver’s license laws, strategies to stop smoking, healthy eating and active living.Eagle County government can continue to better the health and wellbeing of our citizens by working with the towns, schools, business community, non-profit organizations, and community groups by creating goals for 2010. My hope is to create a countywide quality-of-life initiative to see faster results to what you want. Together we can make it happen.Arn Menconi is an Eagle County commissioner.