We couldn't have said it better ourselves. Thursday's editorial reminded us that investing in children at an early age has lifelong effects on families and our community. Mesa County lags statewide counterparts in several key indicators of well-being: our median household income is $13,000 below the state's; only 27% of adults have a college degree compared to 42% statewide; 18% of our children live in poverty, 28% above the state's rate; and our child abuse and neglect rate is more than double the state's.

Our children and families deserve better, and we recognize that as community leaders, we have the opportunity to do something about it. The investments needed start at the beginning of a child's life, with the quality of care they receive from their families and the caregivers that enable their parents to work. In Mesa County, there are only enough licensed child care providers to serve 25% of children 0 to 5 years of age.

In a recent Daily Sentinel survey about child care, 74% of respondents agree that employers in Mesa County have trouble recruiting employees due to child care issues. Availability of child care was ranked as very or extremely important by 88% of respondents for a person's ability to work.

The Child Care 8,000 (CC8K) initiative is building a sustainable system for early childhood education in Mesa County. Our strategies are workforce development, efficient business practices and community investment.

Over the past year, we have worked closely with three pilot child-care sites to provide support while identifying effective practices that can be replicable throughout our community. The results of these efforts are extremely promising. A pilot site director noted, "Before CC8K began, we felt unsupported, lacking the necessary resources to grow and thrive. We have transformed from a center on the verge of closing, to a growing and healthy child-care center increasing the number of families we serve as well as improving quality... With the help and support of CC8K, we continue to become healthier and stronger, looking toward future plans to open another center."

As a result of maximizing available child care space throughout the day, coaching toward more efficient business practices, collective purchasing, and expanded opportunities to bring more people into the work force, we have been able to increase revenues for each facility by an estimated $25,000 annually. Centers tell us that is money they plan to invest in hiring lead teachers at a higher, more competitive wage. We are in the process of adding and additional three pilot sites, and then expanding to pick up more and more sites throughout 2020.

These results would not have been possible without the excellent partnership between Mesa County Public Health, the Department of Human Services, the Workforce Center, The Daily Sentinel, Grand Junction Economic Partnership, and Hilltop Community Resources.

As we work to expand our efforts and help more child-care centers do what they do best, provide quality early childhood educational experiences for our youngest residents, we could use your help. The Child Care Contribution Tax Credit provides a vital funding stream for child-care programs across the state. For every contribution you make to a qualified agency you can receive a 50% tax credit. Child care is no different from any other vital infrastructure — it needs attention and investment.

Thank you, Daily Sentinel, for framing this issue as you did. Investing in our children and their families leads to greater success for children in school, improved employee productivity, a stronger economy, and overall improved health.

Jeff Kuhr is the executive director of Mesa County Public Health and Tracey Garchar is the executive director of Mesa County Human Services.

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