Colorado’s San Luis Valley was home to Rural Philanthropy Days this fall. The event brings together local nonprofit professionals, community leaders, and elected officials with grant-makers from across the state. As part of the conference, attendees learn more about the area and the people who live there. The power of connection truly shines in a region like the valley, which can feel isolated from the rest of the state.
According the 2019 Colorado Health Access Survey, almost 42% of people living in the San Luis Valley have not had a dental cleaning in the last 12 months. 21% of residents surveyed said they’d forgone oral health care because of cost, but this isn’t the only barrier.
Home to some of the most fertile land in the state, the San Luis Valley has great amounts of farmland and pastures for grazing. The economy is based on agriculture, which leaves large distances between towns. There aren’t many options for transportation, and getting around can be a challenge.
Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation’s community partner, Valley Wide Health Systems, is planning to move their dental clinic in Center, CO to a larger facility. The Center Dental Clinic is one of the few dental providers in the region outside of Alamosa. They’ll have more capacity and will be able to reach a greater range of people by getting new chairs that can accommodate those who are differently abled.
Some great community-driven solutions are in motion to keep people connected. There is now a San Luis Valley Shuttle, traveling between some of the towns on set days of the week. It’s a huge help to people who otherwise can’t travel the hour plus distances between destinations. SLVoices is a regional podcast that helps inform the community about events and resources in the area.
Jason Anderson, the Saguache county commissioner told us, “I’d say to funders, don’t show up with a square peg and be surprised that there’s not a square hole. Take the time to understand the layers of the San Luis Valley and then decide what to do.” He’s right; this is all about understanding communities.
At Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation, we partner with communities to re-imagine how all of our neighbors access, benefit from, and value the importance of oral health care. Attending events like Rural Philanthropy Days helps us come together and network, forging partnerships informed by the people who know what’s best for their communities because they live there.
Learn more about Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation at deltadentalcofoundation.org.