One year in, MIRA is making a huge difference in Eagle County | VailDaily.com

One year in, MIRA is making a huge difference in Eagle County

Mobile outreach effort has assisted more than 2,800 residents with basic needs like medical screenings and food

The MIRA bus staff interacts with community members during a stop this summer.
Special to the Daily

EAGLE — One day this summer, MIRA’s Melina Valsecia-Monreal looked up from the task she was engaged in and realized five different groups of people were receiving assistance from the outreach program she manages.

One group was shopping for free food from The Community Market, while inside the bus a couple was working on Medicaid paperwork. An elderly man was receiving a free dental exam and a young mother was getting a car seat check.

“At that moment we had all these community groups working with these people. It was eye-popping, the amount of information and resources we were bringing to them,” Valsecia-Monreal said.

Getting rolling

One year ago, a partnership between Vail Health, The Eagle Valley Community Foundation and Eagle County Public Health put MIRA on the road. In Spanish, MIRA means “look” or “vision” and the MIRA acronym stands for “Mobile Intercultural Resource Alliance/Alianza Movil de Recursos Interculturales.” MIRA is a 40-foot RV that brings resources directly to Eagle County neighborhoods and workplaces.

Eagle County estimates that more than 30 percent of the valley’s population is families where Spanish is the primary language spoken in the home. The county has an extensive list of programs that are available to all residents who need assistance, but there is a large population of residents who aren’t accessing the assistance they are qualified to receive.

The MIRA program is designed to take away two of the biggest barriers for people to get help — language and mobility. MIRA is staffed with bilingual workers and the RV travels throughout the valley to bring assistance to the people it serves.

Since MIRA launched on July 29, 2018, it has recorded 140 days of operation. A total of 2,812 people have received services or have been connected to other resources through MIRA as it visited 40 neighborhoods in Eagle County. 

“It seems like people already trust in the work we do,” Valsecia-Monreal said. “People seem to get the answers they need from us and I can see we are getting beefier and beefier as we go.”

Basic necessities

“The No. 1 need that people are coming to us and asking for is food,” Valsecia-Monreal continued. “The Community Market is a huge asset that joins MIRA at most locations.”

A rundown of services provided by MIRA shows that 1,172 residents received food assistance from the program. Medical services are also very popular with 1,022 participants.

“Last year we had more than 500 people in a month sign up for free flu shots,” Valsecia-Monreal said.

Sometimes the brief interactions during health screenings reveal chronic issues and MIRA has been able to help clients get needed treatment.

“We try to navigate the health services system with them and people seem to like that. They like the one-on-one assistance,” Valsecia-Monreal said.

However, according to Valsecia-Monreal, one of of the most important services launched by MIRA doesn’t show up in statistics. 

“There are all sorts of conversations going on in the MIRA bus that are sort of amazing,” she said. “We start talking and we see where the conversation goes. Every person comes to us for a reason, but sometimes we have to figure out what the real reason is.”

From these conversations, residents have received mental health counseling, employment assistance, nutrition advice and more. 

“People leave the bus with two of three resources, at least,” said Valsecia-Monreal.

Emergency response

Even before MIRA hit the road last year, it was called into service for the Lake Christine Fire response.

MIRA was parked adjacent to Crawford Mobile Home Park in El Jebel for 10 days in July 2018 following the closure of the evacuation shelters. During that time, 442 people visited MIRA, and an estimated 1,765 were impacted by the support provided via MIRA and community organizations. Resources provided by MIRA included City Market gift cards, food, clothing, emergency cleaning kits, mental health consultations, and updated information about the fire and services

In the days after the fire, MIRA provided office space for El Jebel Eagle County employees.

What’s next

MIRA is now rolling into its second year of operation, hoping to build on its freshman success. There are four main goals for the program moving forward:

  • Increase and improve impact reporting
  • Increase customer engagement
  • Streamline referral system
  • Sustainability planning 

It cost $204,000 to operate MIRA during its first year — money provided by Eagle County government, local nonprofits and public health organizations.

Valsecia-Monreal said MIRA now sees about 250 people a month and the program hopes to increase that number. But that is just the first step of what MIRA wants to do for the people it serves.

“At MIRA, we are trying to raise these people’s voices,” Valsecia-Monreal said. “The amount of help that MIRA is bringing to communities is invaluable.”

Community organizations are welcome to join the MIRA effort. To learn more, visit the MIRA Facebook page.