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Safety net of care sought for troops, vets

November 16, 2012

Jakob Rodgers
The Gazette
 

A new coalition of health care providers and nonprofit organizations across the Pikes Peak region aims to ensure that soldiers, veterans or their families don’t slip through the cracks when seeking medical and behavioral health care.

The Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments announced this week the creation of the Peak Military Care Network week — vowing to increase collaboration between the nonprofits, care providers and the military to make care more accessible.

The effort is the latest step by the council to deal with the expansion of Fort Carson. Previous efforts included the push to expand streets and highways around the post.

“Its something that’s been needed for quite some time to be perfectly honest with you,” said Ed Anderson, a retired lieutenant general and president of the National Homeland Defense Foundation, which helped establish the program. “But the time for it right now is particularly crucial.”

The network’s creation comes after troop levels at Fort Carson doubled in recent years to about 26,000. That put an increasing strain on local health care providers already dealing with an increasing number of soldiers battling the medical and mental effects of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A 2,700-soldier combat aviation brigade is expected to further increase the post’s population in the coming years.

Another concern is plans by the Defense Department to scale back the Army’s forces as more troops leave Afghanistan — leaving an influx of combat veterans out of the Army but in need of care.

The announcement of the care program marked the beginning of a “beta,” or test version, said Kate Hatten, the council’s military impact planning program manager.

The council established a website in 2011 called the “Network of Care,” which featured resources for families new to the area or looking for medical treatment.

The new program, though, is intended to go a step further by gathering nonprofits, agencies and health care providers into a coalition bounded by memorandums of understanding. Each would then work to direct patients they can’t treat to the agency or organization that offers the right services.

Nonprofits and agencies are being asked to join the program, Hatten said, though she did not specify how many have signed on.

On Wednesday, Hatten told the council of governments during a 2013 budget planning session that she secured a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to fund the program.

The two-year grant, which was awarded earlier this month, totaled about $195,000, according to Chris Clayton, a spokeswoman for the foundation.

Hatten was unsure how long the program would remain in a testing stage — noting that progress in the next few months would dictate when its “beta” label is dropped.

“This is a community that’s really been interested in supporting the military for a while, and there have been lots of efforts to do that — a lot of good-hearted, well-intentioned people,” Hatten said. “It just hasn’t really been that coordinated over time.”


Gazette reporter Bob Stephens contributed to this report.


Contact Jakob Rodgers: 476-1654
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