By KIRSTEN LASKEY
Los Alamos Daily Post
To better understand health needs in Los Alamos County, Kulik Strategic Advisors was hired to conduct a Health Services Gap Analysis.
The analysis’ findings were presented during the Tuesday night regular County Council meeting.
Council Chair Sara Scott noted that discussion would focus on the gap analysis presentation; the social services contract that Family Strengths Network and Las Cumbres had applied for was not listed on the agenda and will be discussed at a future meeting. She added that County staff continue to work on that issue and the social services contract is tentatively scheduled for the Aug. 18 work session.
Tracy Kulik of Kulik Strategic Advisors presented the analysis.
“Our process was to try to determine the health services’ needs, your existing infrastructure resources … your demographic, socioeconomic and epidemiology challenges and what systematic and provider issues impacted your access to health services,” Kulik said. “Our goal was to help build capacity at the community or County level and its different census tracks and components and address those gaps so that we could not only meet the needs of Los Alamos County currently but those needs that are projected to increase with some your population increases into the 2025 corridor.”
Eight focus groups and 90 people were involved in the analysis, Kulik said. These included representatives of grandparents raising children, mental health/behavioral health, LGBTQ+, BabyNet and Family Resources, seniors, teens and special needs.
Kulik added that Los Alamos was compared to its neighboring communities, as well as the state and nation.
During the presentation, Kulik addressed three profiles: demographics, socioeconomic and epidemiology. She also touched on benchmark community findings, focus group findings and identified gaps.
For the demographic profile, Kulik reported that Los Alamos residents are pretty healthy.
“The overview is that … you have an amazingly healthy population even given some of the growing senior cohort,” she said.
Kulik reported that there aren’t many race or ethnic disparities but there are age and gender disparities. The highest level of growing ages are 5-17 years old and 65 and older. A group that is shrinking are males age 35-45 years old. She added that Los Alamos has a large population of foreign nationals, most likely due to the national laboratory.
As far as the socioeconomic profile, Kulik said Los Alamos’ income is much higher in the state and even in the U.S. and she reported the same for education. However, she noted that number of people living in Los Alamos who are considered at or below the poverty line totals 2,380 or 13 percent of the population.
“That is a larger group than people realized especially given the median family income and some of the affluence of Los Alamos,” Kulik said.
Another major topic was the number of people who are teachers or service workers who qualify as working poor. Kulik said this is connected to the housing cost burden, which the federal government defines as 30 percent or more of an individual’s income. The largest demographic living in poverty are women who are 75 years old or older. She also addressed health insurance. While the numbers of insured in Los Alamos are better than the state or the U.S. Kulik said there are still issues with people being uninsured or having insurance that is not accepted.
In the epidemiology profile, Kulik said there are issues such as clinical services, specifically shortages in the workforce and access to healthcare, in addition to variance in health behavior and health outcomes and community gaps. A concern, which is re-occurring, are babies born with low birthweight or infants weighing five pounds or less, Kulik said. Altitude and older women giving birth to their first child are factors in low birth weight. Cervical cancer and prostate cancer are also concerns, she said.
Mental health and substance abuse are very concerning, Kulik said. She said suicide attempts are significant as are emergency department visits due to suicide attempts. Regarding, youth and suicide, Kulik said there was a lot of discussion on the expectations for young people including their education and future careers as well as peer pressure.
As far as substance abuse, Kulik said it tracks across all ages. There is concern about a culture of acceptance of substance and alcohol abuse and there was discussion on drug overdose rates as well as ways to decrease these numbers.
In conclusion, Kulik offered a list of priorities, which were ranked from highest to lowest priority:
- Problems with access to health care services, inadequate numbers of healthcare workforce, issues with non-acceptance of Medicaid and some commercial health insurance;
- Lack of affordable and acceptable housing stock;
- Culture of alcohol acceptance and drug use;
- Mental health: high stress, anxiety in the general population and unmet need in new residents;
- Silent and sizeable “near poor” population dealing with stigma and lack of awareness of resources;
- Demographic groups (teens and seniors) that have growing risk factors; and
- Lack of affordable and accessible childcare.