DENVER (May 28, 2020) — Today, the Colorado Department of Human Services announced a new behavioral health program that will connect veterans in distress to follow-up support through Colorado Crisis Services (CCS).
The program will work with hospitals and other health care providers across the state to identify veterans who have experienced a mental health or substance use crisis involving suicidal ideation and could benefit from additional support. Veterans will be paired with a trained crisis or peer support specialist, who is a fellow veteran, to ensure they continue care, begin outpatient treatment and receive support during a period of heightened risk.
Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera, Rep. Jason Crow (CO-6), Office of Behavioral Health Director Robert Werthwein and Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners Vice President of Clinical Operations Cheri Skelding spoke at the virtual event this morning, underscoring the urgent need for behavioral health services for Colorado veterans. Maj. Gen. Michael Loh, the adjutant general of Colorado and executive director of the Colorado Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, also participated via video message. Veterans are more likely to experience post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries, depression and anxiety than civilians and die by suicide at higher rates.
“Veterans experiencing behavioral health crises often end up at emergency rooms for care, and research shows they are especially vulnerable in the first week following discharge,” said Primavera. “By providing personal support during that time, we can put more veterans on the path to mental wellness and significantly reduce the likelihood of an additional suicide attempt.”
Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners (RMCP), the organization that staffs the CCS hotline and support line, has been operating a hospital follow-up program, but the focus on veterans as a priority population began this month. With funding from CDHS’s Office of Behavioral Health, RMCP will hire veterans to serve as crisis and peer support specialists and expand the free program statewide over the coming months.
“Service members share deep bonds, and that connection can be a real asset to recovery,” said Crow, a former U.S. Army Ranger. “Having veterans partner with fellow veterans will encourage more to seek behavioral health support and tackle this challenge as a team.”
RMCP is recruiting hospitals and other health care providers to provide referrals to the program and veterans to staff the initiative. Interested parties should contact RMCP at 303.928.7117 for partnership and employment opportunities. For more information, read this fact sheet for hospitals and health care providers and this fact sheet for prospective crisis specialists.
Veterans, and all Coloradans, wanting to talk about any mental health, substance use or emotional concern can call Colorado Crisis Services at 1.844.493.TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255 for free, confidential, 24/7 counseling support. Learn more at ColoradoCrisisServices.org.
Madlynn Ruble, Deputy Director of Communications