MAY  2021

Dear Health Community Colleague,

Welcome to the second edition this month of the Navigator. In this issue, you’ll find a provider partnership story highlighting our collaboration with Colorado Primary Care Clinic, information related to COVID-19, and a deeper dive into social determinants of health.

If you want to learn more about anything in this issue of the Navigator or just have a question, please contact us. You can also follow us on any of our social media channels using the links below.

In good health,
Colorado Access

Photo provided courtesy of Colorado Coalition for the Homeless

May is Mental Health Month and mental health has never been more at the forefront of our lives than it has this last year, as we’ve navigated the COVID-19 pandemic. For Colorado Coalition for the Homeless (CCH), the pandemic has challenged their operational and outreach efforts, and especially their ability to connect with the Native American community.
By implementing some creative solutions and effectively utilizing funding received from Colorado Access, CCH has been able to continue to achieve their mission.

“Mental health is so important and for populations experiencing homelessness, accessing mental health care services became increasingly difficult throughout the pandemic,” said Julia Mecklenburg, community engagement liaison at Colorado Access. “Through the Community Innovation Pool program, we were able to support the work of the Talking Circles program so that some of our most under-resourced members could continue to receive these much needed services.”

Talking Circles is a community gathering for Native Americans that has been part of the programming at CCH in some form for more than 20 years. Throughout its existence, it has seen some changes. Native American Services have always existed at CCH, but it wasn’t until recently that integration and connection really brought the department, and consequently the Talking Circle into the range of connected services. Today, Talking Circles are held three times a week, and provide maximum value to participants by offering referrals and resources, such as medical, housing, and personalized care.

"Native American Services and our Talking Circles used to be a marvelous but small community-based program quietly hidden within the larger edifice of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless,” said Kevin Raleigh, program manager of Outreach and Native American Services at CCH. “Since moving the program into the Department of Outreach and Engagement Services, we have worked very hard to weave the threads of this program into the fabric of all CCH services including case management, health care, street outreach, and housing. For American Indians and Alaska Natives experiencing homelessness and housing instability, Talking Circles are now a much more culturally-honoring invitation into everything else CCH offers."   

The concept of the Talking Circle is based in the culture of Native American populations served. Weekly gatherings are comprised of anywhere between 25 to 50 people. Today, many Nations are represented, including Dakota, Lakota, Apache, Northern Cheyenne, Cherokee, and Kiowa, among others. Participants attend circles for support, help maintaining sobriety, and connection to culture and resources. The format is designed around togetherness and community, taking time to share human connection, announcements, and services, and ending with a meal.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many Native Americans experiencing homelessness were faced with unique problems. What had been the lifeline to human connection through Talking Circles was now limited. The staff at CCH knew they had to be creative and innovative to continue the program at a time when clients needed it most. To cancel or postpone Talking Circles was not an option.

"During the times of COVID-19, personal contact was of the utmost importance to the Talking Circle members. We valued the personal connections of weekly phone calls and attempts at providing Talking Circles via Zoom. Many of the members who had phones appreciated our efforts at staying connected,” said Teresa Bernie, Talking Circle facilitator at CCH. “Staying in touch with the members was vital to managing the loneliness and isolation that many experienced. They appreciated the phone calls because it was more personal and showed that if we stay connected, we will overcome the isolation. To Native people, gatherings provide the family connection that is maintained through Talking Circle."

The staff continued to make contact with participants in personal ways. Bernie spent hours each day checking in with people by phone if they had one. This only worked for a handful of participants. For others, they depended on word of mouth. It really was a time that CCH staff found their efforts being more personal, and yet more deliberate to make the connections participants valued most. And through it all, with funding from Colorado Access, they were able to support a full-time case worker who is solely devoted to this program.

"I have been in this position for a short amount of time but in that time, I have seen firsthand how important it is to have an Indigenous caseworker solely devoted to this program,” said Paloma Sanchez, Native American Services case manager at CCH. “There is not a day that goes by where I do not receive a request to work with an unhoused Indigenous person who has a strong desire to work with someone who understands their history, cultural protocols, traditions, and beliefs. By having this knowledge and being from this community, I can provide cultural and spiritual support, as well as informed advocacy."

With the COVID-19 vaccine now more readily available, the team at CCH is looking to offer creative solutions to provide the vaccine to those who want it. And with the vaccine and restrictions returning to pre-COVID-19 days, Talking Circles will continue to thrive and support the Native populations who need it.

Do you serve patients who could benefit from the Talking Circles program? Contact Talking Circles Facilitator Teresa Bernie at 303-246-1715. To learn more about Colorado Coalition for the Homeless and the Talking Circles program, visit
Connecting the Dots - Social Determinants of Health
This new series will illuminate social factors that lead to health inequalities and disparities or help to decrease them. We hope this monthly series will support your existing efforts by providing resources and educational opportunities while exploring current trends and best practices. Click here to read this month's column, which highlights the work of The Maternal Mental Health Collaborative and maternal mental health issues faced by women in our communities.
Community Events

Youth Engagement Pop-Up Event Series:
The Youth Violence Prevention Program is a newly funded initiative to implement a public health approach and intervention level efforts that are based on national models and best practices to prevent and address the youth violence crisis occurring in the City of Aurora. Both intervention and prevention level strategies will be implemented through a multi-disciplinary approach to include community-based efforts such as youth engagement pop-up events to increase neighborhood protective factors. The grant period is from June 20,2021 to October 31, 2021. Learn more here.

Colorado Families With School-Aged Students to Again Receive Pandemic-EBT Food Benefits: Coloradans with eligible school-enrolled children will begin to receive food benefits through the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program starting in late May. This effort will help support Colorado's families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The P-EBT program reimburses households for meals missed during school closures or reduced hours for students who are eligible for free and reduced-price school meals and attend a school that participates in the national school lunch program. This is a continuation of the P-EBT program that began in July 2020 to reimburse families on free and reduced-price lunch for meals missed at school due to COVID-19. Qualifying families will receive a cash-like benefit for August through May of the 2020-2021 school year for food-eligible purchases. Click here for more information.

The City of Aurora has created a new economic development program to connect people in the community who are experiencing food insecurity with free meals at local restaurants. If you work with people or groups that could benefit from this program, please contact Frank for more information at 303-739-7272 or email

If you have an upcoming community event that you'd like us to share, please email us.
COVID-19 Resources

For COVID-19 utilization management information, click here.

For COVID-19 pharmacy information, click here.

For COVID-19 administrative information, click here.

For COVID-19 training information, click here.

For COVID-19 practice support information, click here.

COVID-19 Toolkit
Primary care providers are a trusted source of information for their patients. You play an important role in the effort to increase the rate of COVID-19 vaccinations in our state. In this toolkit, you will find ready-to-use email, text, and social media messages encouraging patients to get vaccinated or to set up an appointment once you enroll as a COVID-19 vaccine provider. Messages have also been translated into Spanish. The toolkit also includes links to graphics and print resources. You can find the toolkit here.

  • Medicaid vaccination rates: Click here to read a breakdown of Medicaid COVID-19 vaccination rates from the state.

  • COVID-19-related inflammatory syndrome in adults: The postinfectious COVID-19-related multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS) first found in children has a different presentation in adults that may lead to recognition.

  • Racial disparities in vaccination rates: State-level data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows stark racial disparities are persisting.
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