An effort is underway to expand services for local veterans and better tackle problems like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and brain injuries. It’s estimated more than 14,000 veterans live in the Roaring Fork and Colorado River Valleys and, a center is opening up before summer to help deliver services to them. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen reports.
The Western Slope Veterans’ Coalition Center is scheduled to open in Carbondale’s Third Street Center. It will help veterans struggling with physical and mental health issues and serve other purposes. Annie Davies is with Rocky Mountain Human Services, a Denver-based non profit that serves vulnerable populations. Her group is spearheading the center.
"We hope to have that office open in May and really provide kind of a one stop shop for veterans advocates to meet, for there to be collaboration meetings, for us to bring some speakers on best practices, as it relates to areas where the Valley individuals feel like there might be holes in services or room for improvement," she says.
Her organization has a similar center in Grand Junction. It's the closest one to the Roaring Fork Valley. About half of the Valley’s veterans aren’t registered with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, so they’re missing out on services they may need or are entitled to. Davies says the center will help locate pockets where veterans live.
"We know that there’s a large one in and around Glenwood Springs and part of that, for the younger veterans especially, is an affordability piece and where the jobs are, but we know that there are a number of veterans of all eras of our conflicts all along the Roaring Fork Valley and that their needs are different."
Basalt resident Colonial Dick Merritt has helped with the planning.
"There’s a lot of veterans out there that we need to reach and the one-stop community center will help them," he says.
He’s involved with several veterans organizations and projects. He says vets from all conflicts live in the Valley, from World War Two to Afghanistan.
"We’re reaching out to many Afghanistan and Iraq veterans and they need a lot of help because of extended deployments, and a lot of PTSD issues and a lot traumatic brain injuries."
Annie Davies says although the effort is lead by Rocky Mountain Human Services, its community driven, involving groups such as the Aspen and Glenwood Springs Elks Clubs, Huts for Vets, Veterans Affairs staff and local governments. She says it may be used as a model...
"...that could be rolled out not only throughout the Western Slope, but really could become a national model for associations around the country that are interested in supporting veterans upon their return to civilian life."
Rocky Mountain Human Services will hold an open house once the Carbondale center is up and running. The group is hoping to open May 1st.