The Healthy Kids Colorado survey provides a snapshot of the well-being of Rout County youth

The Routt County Youth Services Coalition compiled a one-page “snapshot” of the latest statewide results from the Healthy Kids Colorado survey of middle and high school students to help local agencies adjust to the needs of the youth.

The Wellness Snapshot, which is available online at YouthInRoutt.orgfeatures highlights of the thoughts and actions of Rout County youth in seven categories: mental health, safety, school, physical health, sex and relationships, substance use, and family and community.

Coalition board member Sara Valentino, a youth mental health first aid instructor at Partners for Youth, said the survey results often echo the issues facing adults in Routt County that were outlined in the most recent assessment of the health needs of the Yampa Valley community.

“What concerns youth often coincides with what concerns adults, which (the community assessment) showed to be mental health and substance use,” Valentino said.

With the fall 2021 survey, results on mental health topics showed that 35 percent of high school students and 25 percent of middle school students in Routt County felt as sad or hopeless almost every day for two consecutive weeks in the previous 12 months that they stopped doing some usual activities. Three in 10 students have self-harmed in the past year, which may include pulling their hair or cutting or burning their skin. One in five students surveyed said they had seriously considered suicide in the previous 12 months.

Although regular use of cigarettes, vape products and marijuana has declined among youth, a significant level of underage alcohol use at the high school level continues to concern coalition members, Valentino said. One in three high school students reported drinking alcohol in the past 30 days, an increase from the previous four years.

“Alcohol has forever been the widely used substance in Root County among youth,” Valentino said.

While many of the results were expected by coalition leaders, Valentino said a new question in the 2021 survey caught the coalition’s attention; the survey found that one in four students said they could fire a loaded gun without an adult’s permission in less than an hour.

The Root County Youth Services Coalition has compiled a one-page “snapshot” of the latest countywide results from the Healthy Kids Colorado survey.
Graphics by Shelby Reardon

Valentino cautioned that the results of the survey, released to the public in June 2022, may not be as representative of the entire district as the 2019 survey because the Hayden and South Routt school districts switched to an opt-in system, meaning more -few students took part in the 2021 survey.

Coalition President Whitney Bakarich, youth resilience program manager at Northwest Colorado Health, said the survey results are helpful for coalition members when creating, updating or promoting programs. Bakarich said the survey results can support grant-writing efforts for approximately 50 organizations that serve Rout County youth in some capacity, such as schools, nonprofits, clubs and public health agencies.

The Colorado Healthy Kids Studywhich takes place in the fall of odd-numbered years, includes input from 106,799 youth in 340 middle and high schools across the country in 2021. The survey includes new questions in the areas of belonging, stress, mental health support, sexual consent, gun access, experiences with racism and different experiences related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s important to have this data because it often confirms what our parents, families and organizations suspect to be true. It’s helpful for organizations to know they’re focusing on the right things and to see if their work is making an impact over time,” Valentino said.

The results of the survey draw many contrasts in the positive and negative information. For example, cyberbullying remains relatively low, but school bullying and physical fights are high in middle school, with 23% of middle school students reporting being bullied on school grounds and 29% saying they were in a physical battle. Soft drink consumption was low with less than one in 10 students drinking soda every day, but only half of students reported eating fruit or vegetables every day or getting regular physical activity.

Valentino said the negative results of the physical health study point to the need for more education about healthy eating and getting enough sleep and exercise. For example, only 36% of high school students said they get eight or more hours of sleep a night. Screen time is high and has increased since the 2019 survey, with more than seven in 10 students spending more than three hours a day in front of a screen outside of schoolwork.

Bakarich said the studies help programming “get creative to meet kids where they are” or focus recruitment into existing programs.

To help middle and high school students connect with more community resources, coalition leaders recommend reviewing the recently released 2022 Family Connections Resource Guide, which is posted online at the coalition’s website,

“We have so many organizations in this city that support youth in so many different ways that this study really gives them feedback on how to tailor their programs and how to reach different demographics,” Valentino said.

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