By the end of the 24-hour Littleton Community Retreat on Oct. 19, it was evident that the city has a wealth of health resources that work together well, but promoting them more could help fill in some gaps.
“We’re a coalition here, and we already have a backbone in place,” said David Peters, retired community outreach coordinator for Centura Health/St. Anthony Hospital.
The event, run by a nonprofit organization not affiliated with the city, started with the broad theme of “Building a Healthy Community for All.” Attendees honed in on three goals they hope to achieve: revitalization of the Littleton Boulevard corridor, removing the stigma from mental-health issues and “Making the Healthy Choice the Easy Choice.”
Mike Braaten, assistant city manager and the only city employee in attendance, facilitated the revitalization group. He said its next steps would be to work with the South Metro Denver Realtors on a smart-growth workshop for the community, become familiar with existing city plans, be involved with increased neighborhood engagement efforts established in the city’s 2014 budget, and help develop visions and goals for the neighborhood.
As part of that effort, the group envisions a “charette,” defined as an intensive, collaborative session to find a solution to a problem that integrates the interests of a diverse community.
“We really want to expand the communication piece,” said Braaten.
Peters led the “Make the Healthy Choice the Easy Choice” group.
“It’s difficult, especially for people of low income and low means,” he said, noting that lack of transportation can affect access to healthy food, which is often more expensive than cheap, empty calories.
The group wants to support education around food labeling, urge people to donate healthier items to food pantries, expand the use of South Suburban Parks and Recreation’s fitness van and more.
Braaten noted that Littleton was the first city to join the LiveWell Colorado HEAL Cities and Towns Campaign.
HEAL stands for “Healthy Eating, Active Living.” The program is designed to help city officials adopt policies that improve access to physical activity and healthy food. It’s a partnership between LiveWell Colorado and the Colorado Municipal League, funded through a grant from the state health department.
Lisa Traudt of the Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health Network led the group focusing on mental-health and substance-abuse issues. A priority for its members is promoting ADMHN’s Mental Health First Aid program, a two-day, 12-hour course that teaches everyday people how to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental illness, substance abuse and eating disorders. Attendees learn to assess issues, listen nonjudgmentally, give reassurance and encourage self-help to those who are in need.
Traudt said the more people who take the class, the further it will go to lessening the stigma of people with mental illness. One in four people have been diagnosed with some form of a mental illness, she said, with bipolar disorder being the agency’s most common diagnosis.
“I get goosebumps thinking about all of the conversations over the last two days,” she said. “I’m blown away by the community acceptance and the passion that this community has to get out there and do something.”
John Brackney, executive director of the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce, congratulated the 45 people who attended the retreat on a job well done.
“It’s good that we’re here,” he said, referring to Snow Mountain Lodge near Granby, where the two-day retreat took place. “If we were home, half of us would be on our cell phones, and half of us would be off to other meetings. It’s important to concentrate together as a team.”