Robin Albert, Summit County, Colorado
11/26/19 / Matt Herndon
Corona does a lot of work with clients in the Denver metro area, but we really love the clients who help us to get out and learn about other areas of the state. Whether we are conducting needs assessments, economic impact studies, intercept surveys at county fairs, or simply measuring resident opinions about public matters, our clients have always managed to give us challenging and interesting topics to dive into across Colorado.
One such client that we have worked with for years is Summit County Public Health, whom we have worked with for nearly 15 years on projects ranging from measuring opinions about alcohol and substance abuse, to health needs assessments, to targeted studies to understand how to better reach underserved populations in the community. This month’s interviewee, Robin Albert, has been there for it all, so we were excited to find some time to chat with Robin about her work and the long-term partnership between Summit County and Corona Insights.
Finding Home in Summit County
When so many recent news articles talk about the population boom in Colorado’s urban areas being driven by Millennials chasing the great outdoors, it’s sometimes easy to forget that Denver isn’t exactly a quiet place in the mountains. For years, Colorado’s mountains have been drawing people from around the world, and Robin is one of the talented people the mountains helped to recruit to the area. After graduating with a degree in Communication from Southern Connecticut State University in 1990, Robin moved to Summit County to spend “a semester” in Colorado to ski and enjoy the mountains. She quickly fell in love with the area, and that semester has turned into nearly 30 years in Summit County!
Robin told us that she has been a big volunteer and has been involved in community programming from the beginning, and her love of serving the community has also served her well in her career. Shortly after moving to the area, she began volunteering at the recycling center and as a mentor for youth through the Youth and Family Services Department. In those roles, she got to know a variety of people in County government, and those relationships soon helped her to join Youth and Family Services as an employee. Through the years, Robin has held roles ranging from coordinator, to program manager, and eventually to department manager, the role she has held since Corona first worked with the County in 2006.
Trends in Summit County
As we discussed earlier this year in our blog series about public health, people who work in the field are constantly faced with a wide variety of challenges in helping to keep their communities healthy and safe. Robin and others at Summit County Public Health are always trying to understand the biggest trends that can impact public safety and health and to put programs and services in place to try and combat those issues. Some of the biggest trends that Robin and her colleagues have been working to address in recent years have included:
- Mental health and substance abuse. Despite the beauty of the area, Summit County residents are not immune to these issues. In Corona’s 2017 work with the County, we found that two-thirds of residents knew someone who was struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues, though relatively few knew about how someone could get help for these issues. As a result, the County is constantly working to ensure that services are available and accessible to all residents.
- Increasing poverty. In some ways, Summit County has never fully recovered from the economic decline in 2008. According to Robin, “The working class had to be working a lot more and a lot harder.” While the economic recovery helped many in the community, “housing started to skyrocket and went up even higher than before the crash,” leading to continued financial and mental stress on many residents. In addition, a significant portion of Summit County’s population are from immigrant families, so recent attitudes toward immigrants among the federal government have also made it difficult for families who were already struggling to get by.
- Population growth. Like many areas of Colorado, Summit County is experiencing significant population growth, particularly among families. “We’re seeing growth in middle school and high school numbers, so after school services for youth are a big thing.” Given that we don’t expect population growth to slow any time soon, this will continue to be a challenge for communities across the state.
Working with Corona
Corona’s first work with the county itself was in 2006, when we conducted a study to evaluate ways the County could reduce drinking and driving among seasonal worker young adults in the area. At the time, Robin was on the board of the Summit Prevention Alliance, a now-defunct nonprofit in the area focused on promoting healthy lifestyles in Summit County. Since then, Corona has worked with Summit County on a wide variety of projects, ranging from a variety of ad hoc studies to research and planning as part of the County’s 5-year Community Health Needs Assessment – a process that guides public health priorities for the County as well as its various community partners.
One of Corona’s most recent studies with Summit County has been work to understand perceptions of marijuana usage among youth in the area. Like all communities in Colorado, the legalization of marijuana has been a challenge for public health officials to provide guidance and services on a substance for which the long-term impacts have been poorly researched. Corona conducted surveys with a variety of audiences in the County to help understand how people feel about usage by youth and the various ways that adults can prevent youth from being exposed to marijuana. Aside from the impact that the study had in guiding Summit County’s messaging around marijuana usage in the community, Corona and Summit County also jointly presented the results at the American Public Health Association’s annual conference in Atlanta in 2017, hopefully contributing at least a small amount of knowledge to the public health community at large about the impacts of marijuana legalization.
According to Robin, Corona’s work has been impactful in helping to “give us a good handle on whether something is a perceived issue vs. an actual issue.” In addition, Corona “helped us to understand statistics, how to interpret what it means, and how to word questions in order to get the information we were looking for.” Robin reports that the work has been “very educational for me – I like data, but Corona gave me another way to look at data.”
While we at Corona will always love the work we do and the insights we can provide for our clients, perhaps the most rewarding aspects of our work are getting to know our clients on a deeper level and forming long-term partnerships to continuously make an impact. We send our thanks to Robin, Amy, Deb, and the dozens of other leaders in Summit County for the opportunity to help over the year and look forward to many more years of partnership in the future to make Summit County a healthier and safer place.
Throughout 2019, to help celebrate our 20th Anniversary, we are profiling our staff and select clients. Click here to view all of our interviews.
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