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The Slow, Deliberate Pace of Communities That Care

At what elevation do the deer become elk?  We’ve heard the tourists ask and it makes us roll our eyes and laugh.  But the thought behind the question is valid.  Visitors see deer along the roadside and then they see elk further up the road.  Someone once said that crows become ravens west of the Mississippi.  When talking about the health of the community, at what point do good kids become troubled teens?  We are equally remiss in asking that question. 

The ideal of creating a coalition for the community, by the community, and of the community requires a slow and deliberate look at the community.   With that longer look, we find that the deer don’t magically become elk and teens don’t magically become troubled.  When we ask the right questions, we see that we are more likely to see elk further up the mountain, and that we can prevent troubling behavior by reducing risk factors in the community.  It is the reason why the Communities that Care process is painstakingly slow. 

The Ouray County CTC Community Board consists of 59 representatives from many walks of life: schools, parents, local government, business owners, law enforcement, the marijuana industry, faith-based organizations, health organizations, civic groups, and, most importantly, youth volunteers.  Everyone shares the goal of keeping kids healthy.  But that diversity takes time.  The fundamental tenet of CTC, the Social Development Strategy, states: Providing young people with opportunities, skills and recognition strengthens bonding with family, school and community. Strong bonds motivate young people to adopt healthy standards for behavior. From that premise, it took nine months for the Community Board to create a mission statement:

Ouray County CTC defines itself as an evolving support system for Ouray County youth, that provides opportunities for active involvement in promoting a healthy environment for themselves and others, assisting them in reaching their full potential as competent, compassionate, responsible, and resilient adults.

While the community members involved in the process want to do something and do it now, the CTC process forces us to make sure we are asking the right questions.  Through deliberate observation, we can see the migration patterns of the deer and elk.  Having studied the 2015 Healthy Kids Colorado survey, we recognize that the greatest risks in Ouray County are the availability of substances and favorable attitudes toward substance use.  For the past nine months, we have looked at everything the community already has in place, from state laws and local ordinances to skate parks and school curricula.  We have interviewed program managers, councilmembers, and retailers to find out what is already out there for our youth and what needs augmenting.  We looked at 54 current programs and facilities and 11 state and county ordinances.  We are currently charting our observations to be presented at the Community Board meeting at the Ouray Community Center on February 7th from 11:30 to 1:30. This and the Community Resource Assessment Workgroup report will bring the third of five phases to a close and marks the beginning of phase 4, Implementation.  Finally, the slow pace of thorough observation will hone our efforts to be more effective until the next survey results reveal different risk factors.  Then we can answer the questions like, “at what latitude to coyotes become wolves?” or, “how dry does it have to be before a snake develops its rattle?”