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  • Writer's pictureMarsha for Commissioner

Here's to a HEALTHY 2020: My tour of San Juan Basin Health

Updated: Jul 25, 2020

It’s January. If you’re like me, you have new or renewed health goals. Writing my goals reminded me of a tour I did recently of San Juan Basin Health (SJBH). According to many national polls, the #1 issue on voters’ minds is health care. A commissioner’s mandate is to: “….protect the health, safety and welfare of citizens.”

I am a huge fan of public health. In my days as first a nonprofit executive director of Operation Healthy Communities and then later as a meeting facilitator, I have spent a lot of time in meetings related to public health. I helped guide various groups through strategic planning, project development, and, I have moderated meetings around contentious public issues. I am co-founder of a group known as the Community Health Action Coalition. A key reason I'm running for office is to create healthier communities for everyone.

A vital role of the SJBH is to gather information about our collective public health status and then to set priorities. This is done through something called a “Community Health Assessment”, something SJBH is mandated to do by the State of Colorado. Find the most recent assessment here:

This assessment shows for our area the top five issues as: ■ suicide/suicide attempts ■ affordable housing ■ substance abuse ■ poverty ■ & the availability of jobs/economic opportunity. You may be surprised to see issues not traditionally tied to “health care.” There are many ingredients that make up our health including “social determinants” or things outside the four walls of a medical provider’s office. And, these things actually have more influence on our health than the actual provision of services. This is why affordable housing and bringing good jobs to our county are high priorities of mine!

SJBH also

· Oversees environmental health including groundwater well testing and monitoring.

· Ensures our eating/drinking establishments are safe.

· Promotes overall child- and teen-health through in-home visitation for new parents, immunizations, well-child clinics, and WIC, a supplemental nutrition program.

· Advocates for prevention through overseeing projects related to suicide, cancer and tobacco.

· Works to detect and prevent communicable diseases. A few weeks ago, I received a news alert from SJBH on Twitter that Hepatitis A has been detected in our communities. We often hear of flu outbreaks or Hantavirus. Or worse, a pandemic or wide-scale health emergency could break out anywhere at any time.

· Emergencies:As we saw with the Gold King Mine incident and the “416" wildfire three years later, SJBH is central to emergency response. In these incidents, they tested and reported water quality and monitored the air, put out emergency alerts, and did education in the midst of these disasters.

So, what are La Plata County’s specific roles? First, funding: in the 2020 budget, La Plata County allocated $544,517, an increase of $22,443 over 2019. Also, a La Plata County Commissioner is appointed to serve on the SJBH Board of Health.

Ok, so back to my health goals: exercise more; do one thing for others every single day; and very important in a campaign: “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” What are yours?


Marsha Porter-Norton

Democrat for La Plata County Commissioner

Proven leadership for healthy communities and a strong economy

Engage, Donate and Volunteer here:

Contact me here: or 970-403-5680

Facebook: Marsha for Commissioner@MPNfortheWIN

Vote your Values. Vote for Marsha.

Below: Working on health goals by hiking up Smelter Mountain near Durango, 2019.

Graphic photo above: Google Images.

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