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The Big Picture: Changing systems to improve health

by Julie Estlick

Photo of Community Impact Team manager Hannah Groves and Outreach and Education Specialist Rachel Larson handing out Narcan (naloxone) - an opiod overdose treatment spray - to participants at the Colorado School of Public Health's Csareer and Practice-Based Learning Fair at Colorado State University. The duo gave a short explanation on how to use Narcan to help revive someone during a drug overdose and provided information on Health District programs.Along with providing vital direct care services, the Health District has always kept an eye on the big picture: working to make long-term, systemic changes to improve the health of community members and using data to tackle the most pressing needs.

The Community Projects Team was created in 2000 with a focus on issues that the Health District’s Board of Directors identified as high risk to the community and with potential for improvement. Over the years that has meant working with partners on tobacco prevention and cessation — including passage of the smoking ban in the City of Fort Collins — suicide prevention, mental health and substance use issues, and supporting timely crisis interventions for people needing behavioral health help in hospital emergency rooms.

The program’s name changed to the Community Impact Team (CIT) in 2003.

Since the beginning, CIT has led the Mental Health and Substance Use Alliance (MHSU Alliance), a nonprofit organization with representatives from over 20 area agencies that seeks to improve local mental health and substance use systems. The MHSU Alliance is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. One example of its success in recent years is helping provide the data and evidence needed to pass a sales tax increase in Larimer County for behavioral health needs. The additional money has funded Larimer County Behavioral Health Services’ priorities, including the Acute Care Facility on the Longview® Campus and community programs through the Impact Fund.

Employee Spotlight: Hannah Groves, Community Impact Team manager. "Hannah's positive attitude and passion for systems change are great assets to the Health District and its community partners." Alyson Williams, director of Planning, Policy, Research and EvaluationAlliance members are building on this momentum post-pandemic. A big focus has been ending the stigma around substance use disorders (sometimes referred to as addictions) and increasing public awareness of naloxone, a medication that can save lives by reversing an opioid overdose. As part of that effort, CIT provides free training on how to administer naloxone and distributes naloxone kits. In fact, 496 free kits were provided to community members and groups between January and mid-April of 2024.

CIT also recently relaunched the Changing Minds campaign — first created six years ago, in conjunction with the MHSU Alliance — to destigmatize substance use disorders, shift perceptions of treatment and recovery, and give hope that recovery is possible (

Follow the data

From the start, Health District leaders emphasized collecting and reviewing local data to help determine the organization’s course. Today, we still use data to inform services and systems change.

The Research and Evaluation team conducts the triennial Community Health Assessment that’s used to find local health trends, community successes, and unmet needs. Eleven assessments have been conducted so far, which include a survey mailed to randomly selected households in the district.

Results are used for Health District program planning, shared with the community, and have contributed to health improvement initiatives and research projects.

The team also performs internal program evaluations to understand how well Health District programs are serving the public and where changes can be made.

Changing Minds logo

Help change minds

If your group is interested in learning more about Changing Minds, please contact to schedule a free presentation.

Save a life

Opioid overdose deaths keep rising in Colorado. Naloxone is a medicine that reverses an opioid overdose. Contact to schedule a free group training or to receive a naloxone kit.