Aging Well: Hospital’s Health Resource Center offers array of services |

Aging Well: Hospital’s Health Resource Center offers array of services

Tamera Manzanares

Denise Gardner is among 14 volunteers at the Community Health Resource Center who help individuals learn more about health conditions and diagnoses, test results, alternative therapies, medications and a plethora of other health related topics.

Managing personal health or the health of a loved one can be stressful.

While juggling appointments, medications, mounting bills and insurance, people often face tough decisions about treatment, finances, living situations and other health issues.

Information can be a person's best friend in this situation but only if it's clear, up-to-date and accurate. Too much or too little information, or information that is hard to understand, can leave a person feeling overwhelmed and unprepared.

The Community Health Resource Center, located in a small office in the Yampa Valley Medical Center, exists to help people build knowledge and sift through information surrounding a health topic.

A free service, the center is staffed by volunteers from medical and professional backgrounds equipped with the knowledge and tools to pinpoint what people want to know.

From ankylosing spondylistis to Waldenstrom's macroglobulinemia, volunteers pool their skills to find answers to almost any health question.

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Their biggest challenge, however, is making sure people know the center exists.

You do not have to be hospital patient or employee to visit the center, request a medical search or check out one of the many books available. The service is open to everyone.

"For people not to use us is kind of crazy," said Nancy Bretz, the center's coordinator.

The Community Health Resource Center opened in 2000 with the current hospital at Central Park Drive. It was planned and implemented by Lisa Bankard, now director of Wellness and Community Education at the hospital, and former Routt County resident Allison Frederick, now a writer and marketing consultant on the Front Range.

Bretz has been coordinating the center — training volunteers, managing and monitoring circulation and conducting medical searches — since 2001.

Generous gifts from community members and businesses, in addition to the dedication of volunteers, have sustained the valuable service.

"From a resource standpoint — for a small little town — this place is a big deal," Bretz said.

The center is a win-win situation for volunteers and the people they help.

"I love that it keeps me in contact with medicine," explained Karen Anderson, a retired nurse and one of 14 volunteers at the center.

They include a retired oncologist, respiratory therapist, dental hygienist and teacher as well as individuals with backgrounds in public health, medical research and aeronautics.

"They are all extremely intelligent and capable people," Bretz said.

Although they have varying skills and expertise, volunteers share a love for helping people and, because of their backgrounds, are sensitive to emotions and privacy issues related to health, she said.

Many of the volunteers understand medical terminology that sets most peoples' heads spinning. Physical or mental health conditions, diagnoses, test results, medications, alternative treatments and therapies and procedures are among the many areas where volunteers provide assistance.

"Volunteers explain things very simply to people who need it explained simply," Bretz said.

Part of the challenge of finding information is knowing where to look. Volunteers have access to several subscription-only medical websites where they can find the most up-to-date information.

People can do their own research on a computer available in the office for that purpose or peruse articles and abstracts from publications such as The Lancet and New England Journal of Medicine as well as health news from the Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic and other institutions.

Volunteers also can order medical publications by request.

The center has about 1,000 health-related books on many health topics.

The Community Health Resource Center is located in the hallway to the left of the hospital lobby, across from SportsMed. It is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. throughout the summer.

Individuals are welcome to call or leave a message for volunteers at 970-870-1173 or e-mail

Tamera Manzanares writes for the Aging Well program and can be reached at Aging Well, a division of Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, is a community-based program of healthy aging for adults 50 and older. Visit or call 871-7676.

Free health resource

The Community Health Resource Center at Yampa Valley Medical Center has knowledgeable volunteers available to help individuals understand or learn more about almost any health-related topic. The center also contains books available for check-out, medical newsletters and journals.

The center is located to the left of the hospital lobby across from SportsMed. It is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays during the summer. Volunteers also can be reached by phone at 970-870-1173 and by e-mail at