Living in Mesa County is a pretty wonderful thing, but it certainly is not perfect, and the evidence is these 12 facts about life in Mesa County that will shock you.

The 2018-2020 Mesa County Health Needs Assessment released by Mesa County Public Health shows some shocking statistics lying beneath the surface of our community.

The assessment is a snapshot of health in Mesa County, with a large amount of concerning information regarding children and youth. The report shows areas of concern that need to be addressed, and the numbers in many cases are alarming.

Based upon this assessment, here are 12 shocking facts about life in Mesa County.

* 18% of children are living in poverty
* 20% of homeless people are younger than 18 years of age
* 14% of high school students report having five or more alcoholic drinks within a couple of hours in the past 30 days
* The highest rate of suicide attempts occurs in young people ages 10 to 19
* The overall suicide rate (34.7 per 100,000) is more than double the national rate 13.4 per 100,000)
* Mesa County's median household income is $12,000 lower than that of Colorado
* 60% of adults are overweight or obese
* 13% of high school students report trying marijuana for the first time before age 13
* 16% of high school students report having taken prescription drugs without a doctor's prescription one or more times in their lifetime
* 17 per 1,000 children (younger than 18) experience abuse/neglect
* There are five times as many fast food outlets as healthy food outlets
* Less than a quarter of roads in Grand Junction have striped bike lanes

The strategy for addressing these and other social and health issues is fairly complex, but there is a plan. The first step is identifying the problem areas, then formulating a plan of action, and then executing the strategy to improve life across the board for Mesa County residents.

The statistics paint a somewhat dark side of Mesa County, but the good news is it isn't all dark. We have lots of outstanding people in this community doing a lot of good things. It just happens to be true that every rose has its thorns.