Event aims to connect vets with services
Veterans might be surprised to learn how many local services are available in the region.
That was the case for Dr. Kevin Coleman, chief medical officer at Grand River Health and a United States Army veteran.
“I did know we had resources, but I didn’t know all that was out there.”
For Coleman, that realization came during the process of organizing a summit that will take place at Grand River Health in Rifle Saturday. While there are multiple goals, much of the time will be spent identifying available services in an effort to better connect veterans to them. The veterans summit, which is free and open to veterans, runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. with a breakfast at 8:30 a.m., and a complimentary lunch.
In total there are 20 speakers lined up to present. Along with several elected officials, most of the speakers represent a range of institutions including the Colorado Workforce Center, Garfield County Veteran Service, High Country RSVP, Western Slope Veterans Coalition and more.
The actual planning started with one phone call, Coleman explained. From there it snowballed, with each person suggesting more people and organizations to contact.
“It’s been amazing,” he said of the response. “People are just biting at the opportunity to show the veterans what they can do to help them.”
The idea for the summit dates back more than a year ago when Coleman was talking with another area physician about services available to veterans. The conversation turned to a veteran who committed suicide while waiting for care.
Suicide itself is a frighteningly prevalent reality in the national veteran population. A report released in August by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs concluded that an average of 20 veterans died per day from suicide in 2014. The shocking suicide rate has spurred a series of suicide prevention measures that the department says it is aggressively pursuing.
At the local level, Coleman said the thought of a soldier who served his country overseas only to die once returning home was a tragedy too difficult to swallow. That is when the idea for what became the inaugural veterans summit started.
In organizing the event, Coleman said he gained a better idea of what is available to veterans at the local level. Many might not know that Colorado Mountain College offers a tuition discount to veterans, or that the Colorado Workforce Center tries to give preferential status to veterans, he added.
The goal of the event is to make those connections.
“There are a lot of resources out there for our veterans. I don’t know if they know what they are or even how to get plugged in with them,” Coleman said.
Along with making those connections, the event is intended to honor veterans. Coleman noted that the local community is very patriotic when it comes to recognizing the men and women in the armed services.
Additionally, a questionnaire will be distributed with the hope of learning more about the local veteran community and the gaps in services.
As of Monday around 100 people had alerted Coleman that they will be attending, which is a pretty good number in a community that largely does not RSVP, he said. Veterans are encouraged to RSVP with Coleman by calling 285-7046, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting bit.ly/VetSignUp.
However, Coleman said veterans should not be dissuaded from attending if they are unable to RSVP.
“I really would recommend they come, even if it is last minute,” he said. “By all means the more the merrier. This is for them.”
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