Health – The Pagosa Springs SUN The most trusted source for news and information about Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Thu, 28 May 2020 22:08:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Health – The Pagosa Springs SUN 32 32 Maintaining good mental health is essential Sat, 30 May 2020 11:00:14 +0000 By John Lough
American Counseling Association

The last few months have left many of us feeling shaken. Life can be more difficult and hard to manage when we are so strongly affected by things far outside our area of control. But one of the secrets to getting through difficult times is to focus more heavily on those areas of our lives which we can control.

A starting point is your physical health. While that certainly means doing all you can to minimize your exposure to the COVID-19 virus, it also means working to keep yourself in the best physical condition possible.

Regular physical exercise, as we all know, is important regardless of a major health crisis. But with today’s worldwide health problems, it’s vital to do all you can to help your body face any threats it may encounter. Although your local gym or YMCA may have had to close, this isn’t an excuse to become a sloth. Want a home workout? Check the literally thousands of online videos offering exercise advice and workout sessions for people in all types of physical condition.

If workout videos aren’t to your liking, simple activities like daily walks not only help improve physical fitness, but also mental fitness.

The long-term isolation brought on by the coronavirus pandemic can take a very real mental toll. We have less contact with others, we find ourselves bored and it certainly can be a factor in aggravating mental health issues, especially depression.

Improving your mental fitness isn’t much different than working on your physical fitness. That daily walk, for example, is a time to ignore the latest news, to forget about how life has changed for you, and to be aware of nature as you clear your mind. An effective way to lower stress and fight depression is simply to refocus your mind on pleasant, enjoyable things rather than to worry about all that is wrong.

There are numerous activities that can help accomplish that refocusing. Are you staying in touch or renewing contact with family and old friends? Yes, the phone and Internet are still working just fine. What about taking up that hobby you abandoned a couple of years ago, or working through that pile of books you’ve been promising yourself you’d get to some day?

Maintaining positive mental health is important throughout our lives, but especially so during rough times such as we are experiencing today.

“Counseling Corner” is provided by the American Counseling Association (ACA). Send your comments and questions to or visit the ACA website at


Bad times and depression Sun, 24 May 2020 11:00:16 +0000 By John Lough
Special to The PREVIEW

Even in the best of times, depression is a major mental health issue. Recent statistics find more than 17 million Americans are affected by major depressive disorders in any given year. And in today’s period of pandemics, social distancing and widespread uncertainty about financial and health issues, it’s not surprising that depression is a growing problem.

Major depressive disorder is, however, more than simply feelings of sadness or grief. We all have times when things aren’t going quite right and the results leave us unhappy. Our sadness might be triggered by anything from problems at work to the grief brought on by the loss of someone dear to you.

The difference between that type of unhappiness and major depression is both the severity of what is being experienced and the fact that it is long-lasting. Simple sadness over life circumstances normally fades within a couple of weeks, but major depression is deeper and much longer lasting. Major depression doesn’t just have you feeling blue, but it’s a mental health illness that can directly affect your life in a number of negative ways.

Major depressive disorder can be recognized through the wide range of symptoms that often come with it. In addition to feeling sad and being in a depressed mood, major depression will often affect sleep patterns, making sleeping difficult or having someone sleep too much. Some people have little energy and feel fatigued most of the time. They may have no appetite or are eating too much. Depression can make it difficult to think clearly, to concentrate and to make decisions. In the most severe cases, there may be frequent thoughts of death or suicide, or even suicide attempts.

Clinical depression can also cause or aggravate serious health issues. It has been linked to heart issues, the worsening of chronic health conditions, experiencing headaches, and other unexplained aches and pains. But the good news is that depression is a treatable illness.

Depression will not just heal itself, but today there are a variety of therapies and medications which can provide real help. If you, or someone close to you, is facing severe depression, call your family physician or a professional counselor. If there has been talk of suicide, or a suicide attempt, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255.

Major depressive disorder is a serious but treatable health problem. Not dealing with the issue should never be an option.

“Counseling Corner” is provided by the American Counseling Association (ACA). Send your comments and questions to or visit the ACA website at


Don’t let the kids drive you crazy Sat, 16 May 2020 11:00:33 +0000 By John Lough
Special to The PREVIEW

One result of the health crisis has been a great many parents getting to spend a lot more home time with their kids. While situations vary around the country, many school systems have ceased classroom instruction for the year. Instead, kids may be doing online classes, while complaining and trying to sneak in as much TV, cellphone and video game time as possible each day.

However, you can help minimize the complaining, the goofing off and your own headaches by taking action to make home time more productive.

A starting point is having a real plan for your child’s day. Experts recommended making a schedule sheet to hang on the wall or fridge where you and the kids can see what happens throughout the day and week. In school, kids have set times for math, English or history lessons. Your home time should be the same to help move the learning process forward and minimize arguments.

It’s also important to offer choices. Reading time doesn’t have to mean picking up the same book or story each day. Give your child a selection to choose from. This same sort of approach can work for art projects, writing lessons or virtually any subject. 

Math studies, for example, might include lessons from a math book some days, but could also include practical math projects around the house. Does your child know how to measure and calculate the square feet in his or her bedroom? Can he or she figure out how to change that recipe to increase or decrease the number of cookies it will make? Then, how about going right from there into a delicious baking session?

The opportunities to learn around the house are endless. Your backyard is probably filled with budding plants, small bugs or places to plant a few seeds, all part of science learning. What about helping your child put together a family history (writing project) or family tree project (research and art)? And yes, there are art projects for most kids, regardless of their age.

Kids are very social creatures and being stuck at home with Mom and Dad (and maybe siblings) for any extended period isn’t as much fun as hanging with friends or even being back in school. But with a little planning and effort, parents can help fill up the days in productive ways to help make the time go faster and to minimize the complaining.

“Counseling Corner” is provided by the American Counseling Association (ACA). Send your comments and questions to or visit the ACA website at


Is today’s stress affecting your sleep and dreams? Wed, 13 May 2020 11:00:42 +0000 By John Lough
Special to The PREVIEW

The coronavirus health crisis that has so terribly affected this nation and the entire world is clearly a cause for heightened levels of stress and anxiety for all of us. One clear result of increased stress for many people is the negative impact it can have on our sleep patterns.

Stress is an emotional, physical or mental tension caused by something that’s outside ourselves, something over which we usually have no control. Such stress can make it more difficult to fall asleep and to stay asleep, and can bring about more frequent, and often upsetting, dreams.

While researchers don’t know exactly why we dream, there is ample evidence that when we’re stressed, along with poorer quality sleep, there will often be not only more dreaming, but more dreams of a distressing nature.

If you find that your quality of sleep is decreasing or frequency of stress-related dreams is increasing, there are things you can do to combat the problem. The most obvious is to put a barrier between things that are stressing you and your actual bedtime.

For at least an hour before trying to sleep, commit to activities that you find relaxing and will help refocus your mind off whatever has you feeling anxious. You want to avoid doing things such as watching the news for the latest health crisis updates or reading the paper about ongoing financial problems which can seem overwhelming. Instead, find something enjoyable to read or pleasant music to listen to. You want to give your brain a chance to forget the things that have been worrying it and to give your body’s sleep system a chance to kick in.

Whatever you can do to help relax yourself will make it easier to get good, restorative sleep. Experts recommend turning off those electronic devices well before going to bed. The light that cellphones, laptops and similar devices emit helps to keep us awake, not make us sleepy.

You might try other relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises. Some experts recommend progressive muscle relaxation programs that have you focus on consciously relaxing various muscle groups one by one. There are numerous apps and online instruction programs that can guide you through helpful, calming exercises.

Adequate, sound sleep is vital to good health. Poor sleep and disturbing dreams can make stress much worse. Now is a good time to take action for more restful evenings. 

“Counseling Corner” is provided by the American Counseling Association (ACA). Send your comments and questions to or visit the ACA website at


Order limits evictions and late charges, Polis assigns committee to focus on behavioral health Fri, 08 May 2020 11:00:23 +0000 Special to The SUN

Gov. Jared Polis provided an update on Colorado’s response to COVID-19 on Monday.

“Safer at Home is not a return to normalcy, which means that Coloradans should continue to be responsible, stay at home when possible and wear masks when in public. This virus is having an impact on every part of our lives. We talk a lot about how this is affecting public health and our economy, but it’s equally important to recognize the impact this is having on Coloradans’ mental and behavioral health,” said Polis. “We want to ensure everyone has the resources they need during this difficult time, whether it’s related to your finances or mental health. We are all in this together and we’re going to get through this together.”

Many Coloradans have experienced substantial loss of income as a result of business closures and layoffs, hindering their ability to keep up with their rent or mortgage payments and threatening their housing security. On March 20, Polis signed an executive order addressing this issue and is now extending and strengthening that order. Executive Order D 2020 051 includes:

• No evictions or foreclosures should occur in the month of May for residential or commercial tenants, unless there is a public safety risk.

• Landlords and lenders are prohibited from charging any late fees or penalties because of an inability to pay rent or mortgage payments.

• Landlords must notify tenants of the new federal protections against evictions and foreclosures for each property. 

• The Colorado Department of Local Affairs, Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, and Department of Regulatory Agencies should work with property owners and landlords to create model repayment agreements to allow tenants the time they need to repay rent.

The full order can be read here:

As Colorado transitions to Safer at Home, many Coloradans will still be spending a lot of time at home. This pandemic is not only taking on the economy and Colorado way of life, but on Coloradans’ mental and behavioral health. State crisis hotlines are seeing a much higher call volume since the beginning of this crisis. 

Colorado Crisis Services provides free, confidential, professional, and immediate support for any mental health, substance use or emotional concern 24/7/365. Folks can call (844) 493-TALK (8255) or text “TALK” to 38255 to speak to a trained professional. Any Coloradan that needs support should reach out. 

Polis announced a new special assignment committee within the Behavioral Health Task Force that will focus on the effects of COVID-19 on behavioral health in Colorado. The special assignment committee will: 

• Create an interim report that highlights the short- and long-term impacts of COVID-19 on the behavioral health system, including access and affordability of behavioral health services, especially for vulnerable and underserved populations.

• Evaluate the behavioral health crisis response in Colorado to COVID-19 and provide recommendations for the Behavioral Health Task Force’s blueprint on improvements of behavioral health services for a response during any potential future crisis.

The Task Force is charged with providing recommendations on how to overhaul the state’s behavioral health system to ensure every Coloradan has access to mental health resources in every corner of Colorado. The recommendations were supposed to be released in June, but given the crisis, the timeline of the Task Force’s work is being extended until later in the summer.

The governor also announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has activated the Crisis Care Program (CCP) for the state of Colorado. The CCP provides reimbursements to local organizations that support individuals and communities as they recover from the psychological effects of disasters.

Services will be provided at no cost and are available to any survivor. Services include:

• Stress mitigation.

• Crisis counseling.

• Coping strategies.

• Emotional support.

• Education.

• Links with individuals or agencies that can help those impacted.

• And services can be provided in either a group setting or one-on-one.

The COVID Relief Fund is now distributing the second round of funding grants. The fund received 780 applications requesting more than $17 million. A total of $3.6 million will be disbursed in the second round to 165 organizations that are serving all 64 Colorado counties. 

Funding is going to community-based organizations serving displaced workers, children in low-income households, frontline workers in health care and other critical industries, workers without access to paid sick leave or health insurance, older Coloradans on fixed or lower incomes, people experiencing homelessness, people with disabilities, tribal governments, survivors of domestic violence or child abuse, immigrant and refugee communities, and black, Latino and Asian Coloradans who are disproportionately affected by this crisis. 

Through the first two rounds, $8.4 million in funding has been distributed to 371 organizations across the state. 


Three elected to Upper San Juan Health Service District board Wed, 06 May 2020 02:11:45 +0000 The unofficial results for today’s Upper San Juan Health Service District regular election have been released, with three directors elected to three-year terms on the district’s board of directors.

Two candidates were re-elected to the board, Matthew A. Mees and James C. Pruitt, and Mark H. Zeigler will join the board for his first term.

Following are the unofficial vote totals for the five candidates:

Matthew A. Mees, 302 votes counted.

James C. Pruitt,  247 votes counted.

Mark H. Zeigler,  238 votes counted.

Kathryn Alfred, 159 votes counted.

Robert W. Brobst,  156 votes counted.
For more information on the election and the board of directors, see Thursday’s issue of The SUN.

Library to offer free Introduction to Mindfulness workshop Mon, 04 May 2020 11:00:46 +0000 By Brad Glover
Special to The PREVIEW

On May 7, from 5 to 6:30 p.m., the Ruby Sisson Library will be offering a free workshop on Introduction to Mindfulness. The course will be taught by Pagosa resident Sarah Riehm, who moved here with her husband full time in March of 2019 after being faithful visitors for six years. 

Riehm holds a certification in mindfulness training, as well as a certificate in fitness training and senior adult fitness. 

Mindfulness training offers proven, science-backed techniques that can help anyone reduce stress, lower anxiety and manage chronic pain. While “mindfulness” means many different things to people, this class is based on specific methods developed by Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Boston. There will be plenty of time for questions and answers after the teaching session. This will be an interactive session with gentle movement, so wear comfortable clothing.

This workshop will be conducted as a Zoom online meeting. Class size is limited, so register today with Brad Glover at the library. He can be emailed at, or call the library at 264-2209. After you register, you will be sent an invitation via email with a link to join the meeting. To participate, you need to have a smartphone or computer with a camera that is connected to the Internet. Or, you can listen to the audio portion only on your phone. 

Zoom is a free online meeting platform; if you are not a registered Zoom user, don’t fret. You do not need to register or install it prior to the event. However, you might want to install it before this event and run a test to make sure your camera and audio are hooked up so you can enjoy the meeting. Visit to install Zoom for free. 

If you have any questions about the course content, contact Riehm at (469) 236-0017. 


For our children, risk is OK — danger is not Wed, 29 Apr 2020 11:00:55 +0000 By John Lough
Special to The PREVIEW

As parents, a common goal is to protect our children as much as possible. We don’t want to see our kids hurt physically, emotionally or psychologically. And, yet, most of us realize that such a goal is virtually impossible to achieve.

While it’s relatively easy to try and keep our children from some physical harm through actions like making them buckle up every time they’re in the car, making sure they have the necessary vaccinations and keeping a regular schedule of doctor and dentist visits, kids are sometimes still going to get hurt just because they’re kids. Climbing that tree probably seemed a good idea, just like sledding down that steep hill looked perfectly safe and riding that mountain bike off that jump looked like it would be nothing but a fun experience.

The reality is that kids often aren’t able to see the danger in certain activities with the same clarity that parents can. Yet, despite our parental fears, it actually is a good thing for our kids to learn to take some risks, even if they fail at them sometimes. The intention for parents should be to help educate their child on the differences between danger and risk.

While climbing a tree will often look dangerous to a parent, a child will only see the challenge. But if the child has not been taught on safe ways to climb that tree, what height limits are OK and similar information, it can indeed be a perilous activity. 

When a parent can instruct on how to minimize danger and instead enjoy the benefits and thrills that overcoming risk can offer, the parent is helping their child develop in a healthy way. Children are very sensitive to things that are bothering or worrying their parents, and if a parent is communicating constantly the need to be careful or to avoid most situations or activities, it only heightens a child’s fears and feelings of insecurity.

But when a parent encourages sensible risk and helps teach a child how to approach and conquer such risk, they are helping that child to grow and feel more secure, confident and successful.

We all want our children’s world to contain as little danger as possible, but encouraging a child to take on some risk and teaching them to do it in safe ways is essential to having that child develop into a strong, secure adult.

“Counseling Corner” is provided by the American Counseling Association (ACA). Send your comments and questions to or visit the ACA website at


9Health Neighbors: 9Health launches new program Tue, 07 Apr 2020 11:00:38 +0000 By Cat Lyons
Special to The PREVIEW
9Health, the largest volunteer-driven, nonprofit health wellness and prevention effort in the country, has launched a new program, 9Health Neighbors, to provide answers to your health questions and a simple human connection during the new coronavirus/ COVID-19 pandemic.
The 9Health Neighbors are dedicated 9Health medical volunteers who are there to help local Coloradans with their health questions, connect with the public and inspire people with positive and local stories.
For more than 40 years, 9NEWS and 9Health have maintained a partnership focused on keeping Colorado healthy through preventive care and health awareness. 9Health will continue to advance this health awareness effort across Colorado and provide people with the tools they need to take responsibility for their own health.
“With the help of our long-time 9Health medical volunteers, we are able to help Coloradoans find the answers they need, reduce their stress and share additional resources that are relevant to their needs,” said Gary Drews, 9Health president and CEO. “During this trying time, we continue to provide resources to our communities to ensure we support our neighbors.”
The 9Health Neighbors program consists of 9Health Medical Neighbors and 9Health Good News Neighbors. For those who have a health or medical question, you can call (303) 698-4455, ext. 2005 to leave a message with a 9Health Medical Neighbor and you will receive a call within 24 hours.
The 9Health Good News Neighbors find positive and uplifting stories from their own communities to share with the public during this difficult time. 9Health Neighbors are here to be a resource for our communities, build a connection and inspire Coloradans to share their stories.

Pagosa Springs’ first identified COVID-19 case shares her experience Sat, 28 Mar 2020 22:18:36 +0000 Special to The SUN
On March 23, a woman in Pagosa Springs was informed that her test for COVID-19 came back positive.
She reached out to The SUN on Saturday in an effort to share her story on the condition she remain anonymous — a wish The SUN is honoring.
The woman explained via email she wants to share her story “to try to ease people’s fears and also to educate them on the virus. How I did everything I could to keep from coming down with this nasty virus and still it managed to find me and knock me to my knees. Hand sanitizer is great, washing your hands even better, but still somehow I caught this virus.”
She also urges people to stay home.
“You really have no symptoms for three to four days before you get knocked down and start running a fever and feeling like you have the flu. How many people could you infect during those 3-4 days? Stay home!” she wrote.
Even after her official quarantine period is over today, she explained, she will remain at home to be sure she does not spread the virus and to build up her immune system.
“So much is unknown about this disease that I would rather be cautious than take a chance of spreading it,” she wrote. “Elderly people do not do well with this virus, and we have a lot of senior citizens in our community.”
The woman reported to The SUN that she feels better every day and is getting stronger.
“Thank you to all the health care professionals at Pagosa Springs Medical Center for the help they gave me that morning,” she wrote in a separate email. “Blessings to all of you for what you do.”

In her words
I live in Pagosa Springs and tested positive for COVID-19. It’s my hope the information here will help you understand a little more about how this nasty virus arrived in our beautiful mountain town. I’m the first and I’m certain I won’t be the last.
It all started when I took a business trip out of the country. On Monday, March 9, I noticed a slight cough, but didn’t think much about it. My destination was wet and cold and I’d been running from dawn to midnight since we arrived.
On Wednesday, March 11, I flew back to Durango where my husband picked me up at the airport. We had agreed before I left that I would go into isolation and no kissing for two weeks. Thank goodness we made this agreement.
On Thursday morning, I started to get worried as the coughing became worse, I ached all over and my head was pounding like I had a migraine. So I called my doctor and spoke to his nurse. She advised me if I didn’t have shortness of breath, it wasn’t COVID-19. And at that time, I was breathing fine.
Friday, I ran a noticeable fever and went to bed. Saturday, I stayed in bed sleeping and taking Advil. Sunday, I realized when I walked across the room, I was starting to sound like a six-pack-a-day smoker as I gasped for air.
Monday, I don’t remember much as I felt so bad and switched to Tylenol. But early Tuesday morning, I woke up about 2 in the morning shivering. My temperature was 102.9 degrees, and I was gasping to breathe. Unable to sleep, I went into our living room and spent the rest of the night with two big blankets covering me and the heating pad at my back.
During the night, I started to get worried as I struggled to breathe. Early that morning, I made the decision we were going to the ER. In my 63 years on this earth, I’ve never been to the emergency room. Knowing it was probably COVID-19, and I was highly contagious, I called the ER in advance.
At first, I think the staff was skeptical, as they should be. When we arrived, the nurse came out to the parking lot all gowned up with a mask on. She took my vitals and, by this time, my fever had broken. They did a regular flu test to rule out influenza. Then, the ER doctor came out and listened to my lungs and said, “I think you have COVID.”
By this time, I suspected as much. The hospital had limited test kits at the time, but they decided to use one on me. They asked me to self-isolate, which I agreed to. We went straight home from the ER and I returned to bed, running a fever once again.
That day, we noticed my symptoms seemed to worsen after taking ibuprofen and I switched to aspirin. Two days later, my fever broke.
During the next week, our neighbors and friends brought us food and left it on the deck. No one was allowed into our home while we waited for the results. My husband self-quarantined with me and it was an anxious time as we watched the news of the growing pandemic.
Nine days later, the call came from the hospital ER doctor. “You have COVID-19.” No, I wasn’t shocked. The ER doctor had warned me and my own intuition kept telling me this was not bronchitis or the regular flu.

The staff at Pagosa Springs Medical Center was excellent, they were professional and sympathetic. But if you really want to stop the spread, we need the results right away. That’s not the hospital’s fault, but the testing facilities’, which are overrun.
Thank goodness I did not leave my house since the trip to the ER on March 17. I’m now under quarantine for another 10 days and I’ve not had a fever in almost two weeks.
Slowly, I’m starting to feel better. Not great, as I tire easily and still have a tendency to run out of air. My chest hurts less, but occasionally, it will tell me it’s time to sit down. The cough is still there, but not as bad. It’s going to take time to heal.
While I was out of the country, I took every precaution. I wore leather gloves, used almost a full bottle of hand sanitizer, tried not to touch anything, but somehow the virus still found me.
At this time, I feel very fortunate that I’m a healthy, stubborn 63-year-old who had no underlying health problems and believe that’s the reason I survived. That and lots of rest. Slowly, I’m trying to build my strength back, but I’m going to stay home until the end of April. My immune system needs time to rebuild to protect me and the virus is still out there.
Thank God, my husband shows no signs of it, and he’s in isolation with me. For the safety of everyone, including our health professionals, please stay home. Take this virus seriously and use every precaution to avoid it. Most of all, at this time, do not travel. My travel destination was beautiful and I want to return, but not until this is over. Stay home. Stay safe.



Links to COVID-19 coverage