Paige Loura returned to her native Seattle after college in Boulder, but what she learned here about how people and the systems in which they live are intertwined—and how those systems can affect individual and public health—brought her back to Colorado.
Degrees in international affairs and anthropology, as well as a certificate in public health, bolstered Paige’s innate passion to help people access resources and providers they need to achieve optimal health.
“I really wanted to go back to the roots of what interested me in a profession in public health, and that was contributing to the community and helping the population that needs extra assistance navigating the health system,” she says. “San Juan Basin Public Health puts a big emphasis on working within the community and making sure that everyone is supported.”
Paige is a care coordinator for San Juan Basin Public Health. Based in Durango, Colorado, her work takes her wherever people live in Archuleta and La Plata counties. She meets people to assess their health and social care needs, and then connects them to providers and other resources that affect health. She is part of a team that includes another care coordinator, two nurse navigators, a dental navigator and a coordinator who focuses on new moms and their infants.
In her daily work, Paige sees social determinants of health—factors like food and housing security, access to transportation and personal safety--playing a role in the ability for people to access care. The region has a long waiting list for residents to find affordable housing, for example, and the distance between where people live and the services and providers who can help them are significant. Those everyday stressors can be overwhelming and push the need to manage a health issue to the back burner.
A shortage of mental health providers is another significant barrier for local residents who need services and must wait a long time for an appointment, Paige says. While the roster of mental health providers accepting Health First Colorado members has expanded with RAE funding and behavioral health integration, there are too few providers to meet the need.
Paige coaches Health First Colorado members and helps them navigate a complex health system. “There’s never a one-size-fits-all solution when you’re looking at whole health. It’s a very individualized thing,” she says. She is also a problem solver, meeting each individual need with creativity and ingenuity. For example, the remote rural areas are home to individuals who live off the electricity grid, depending on generators and other energy sources that don’t adequately support special health needs.
“I have two clients now with advanced lung disease who don’t have access to supplemental oxygen because they aren’t connected to utilities.” That challenge has Paige looking at a range of possible alternatives so these rural, elderly residents can breathe more comfortably.
“I was drawn to Durango because of the strong community network. Everyone here is close-knit,” she says. “I really like connecting with people. I think it helps build a stronger community in general to support those channels of assistance and provide resources to the people who need them—the marginalized, the elderly or the isolated. I really value the community I live in, and I think it’s important to support the health of community members.”