This month’s VISTA spotlight is Katrina Stevens of West Mountain Regional Health Alliance.

What is the background behind your organization?
“West Mountain Regional Health Alliance (WMRHA) formed as a regional entity in 2010 to examine the gap of prenatal care access for low-income women in western Eagle County, CO. This led to a collaborative Prenatal Program between Pitkin and Eagle counties. The success of the continuing partnership highlighted the need for the group to continue its efforts to identify issues and seek regional solutions. In order to do so, the Alliance expanded to a broader community alliance.

Today, WMRHA consists of diverse members from many sectors of the healthcare industry, including: healthcare organizations, public health, human services, clinical providers, insurers, schools, and community organizations. All of these groups are committed to creating an integrated healthcare system including (physical, behavioral, dental and social) in Eagle, Garfield, Pitkin and Summit counties.

The Alliance creates a neutral space for “multi-sector” and “multi-stakeholders” to convene, identify, understand, and work together on regional issues to create health equity strategies and solutions. WMRHA works in collaboration with its members to address large, system-level healthcare challenges through alignment of initiatives and efforts and advocating for health policy.”

How long have you been a VISTA?
“I have been a VISTA for 7 months.”

What made you want to become a VISTA?
“I have pursed work in the health care field since I graduated high school, working in ERs, clinics, hospice care, etc, anything to gain more medical experience to pursue my goal of becoming a physician. However, the closer I worked with patients the more I recognized the systematic issues within healthcare: the high rates of uninsured, high costs of treatments, lack of access to care, increased mental and behavioral health issues and stigma, the large effects of social determinants of health on the wellbeing of patients, and the list goes on. While I loved direct patient care, I wanted to gain experience working at a systems level. I wanted the opportunity to impact the health of a region, to work for all the residents, not just specific patients. The AmeriCorps VISTA program and West Mountain Regional Health Alliance provided an ideal opportunity to accomplish this. I now engage with the community and take steps to find innovative solutions to improve the health and wellbeing of the entire West Mountain region.”

Is there anything you’re currently working on that you’d like to share?
“Currently one of my primary duties is Data Lead and community facilitator for the Built for Zero initiative in the Roaring Fork Valley. A lesser known fact is housing and homelessness are directly related to an individual’s health and wellbeing. Built for Zero is a national effort to reduce homelessness and improve health by following a detailed, community-specific template. My role in the project is to assist direct service organizations in creating a real-time, by-name list of every homeless individual in the valley and to convene communications with our partner organizations to accomplish the goal: to functionally end homelessness.”

What are you plans for after your year of service as a VISTA volunteer?
“After my year of service I will be returning to my home state of New York to attend SUNY Upstate Medical University. I will bring with me the unique perspective my VISTA year has given me and remain conscious of the health inequities in our country and always striving to find solutions.”