From left, Erich Lange, Paul Reich and Ben Marshall of Tri-County Health Network, which was recognized as the 2018 Organization of the Year by Mental Health First Aid Colorado in October. (Courtesy photo)


The San Juan Mountains and surrounding areas provide a solitude that many San Miguel County residents cherish, as this little slice of the Rockies seems detached from the rest of the world. We can do without shopping malls and fast food chains. Traffic lights and skyscrapers aren’t necessary out here, either. But when it comes to medical and supportive services, sometimes it can be difficult to receive proper care, especially if someone lives in a rural area and is immobile due to injury or illness. A Tri-County Health Network (TCHNetwork) program is making medical services more accessible to those who may have trouble getting to appointments, while also helping with simple tasks that still need to be tackled, like grocery shopping or walking the dog. 

The Palliative Support Services Program officially launched a year ago, according to program coordinator Ben Marshall. 

“When the hospice program left the county several years ago, Tri-County Health Network and the Telluride Regional Medical Center conferred to determine the best course of action to provide comprehensive support services to those living with illness or injury,” he explained. 

A 2018 TCHNetwork survey showed the need for such services, he added. Of the 230 county residents that completed the survey, 50 percent said they were unable to access services for themselves or a loved one within the past year; 25 percent of respondents rated the availability of existing services as poor. Over two-thirds of respondents were over the age of 50. 

TCHNetwork works with the Telluride Regional Medical Center and Norwood’s Uncompahgre Medical Center, as well as a team of 10 volunteers, in serving any resident “struggling with an illness or injury,” Marshall said, regardless of the recovery timeline. People are referred to the program through their health care provider, he added, who determines the level of care necessary. 

Two nurses from the Telluride medical center, who contract with PASCO (Personal Assistance Services of Colorado) Home Health, provide in-home visits and care, including the administration of medication, wound care and blood draws. 

Volunteer groups People Care Health Services and Touch of Care handle additional unskilled support from a daily check-in phone call to in-person companionship and conversation. Volunteers also go grocery shopping, prepare meals and help with light housekeeping. 

“(The program) allows these individuals to live in their own homes for as long as they choose,” Marshall said. 

Need a ride to a doctor’s appointment? No problem. The program has you covered, as regional medical transportation is provided by Montrose’s All Points Transit and the Tri-County Health Network Lyft partnership. 

In addition to the volunteer program and the home health partnership, TCHNetwork maintains an inventory, available to the community by appointment, of medical equipment, including crutches, walkers and wheelchairs. Comfort care packs that consist of commonly used disposable items that aren’t prescribed by a physician (gloves, fracture pans, sanitizer and bed pads, among others) also are available.  

An advisory board comprised of members from the Telluride medical center, San Miguel Public Health, Region 10, the Aging and Disability Resources of Colorado, Hope West, PASCO Home Health, TCHNetwork and the community oversee the program. Additional support comes from the San Miguel County Board of County Commissioners and the Town of Telluride’s Commission for Community Assistance, Arts and Special Events.

“The TCHNetwork Palliative Support Services Program brings a variety of resources together to help effectively deliver care to San Miguel County residents,” county public health director June Nepsky said in a news release.  “In public health, we see unmet needs that this program can help fill and are excited to continue to share resources with the Palliative Support Services Program.” 

Marshall explained that TCHNetwork plans to frequently hold outreach and training events on topics including dementia, advance health care directives and mental health first aid. 

For more information, contact TCHNetwork at 970-708-7096 or