Southeast Health Group recently partnered with local Veteran Resource Centers, American Legions, and other veteran-centered organizations to better understand service needs and prevent suicides among veterans in southeast Colorado.
The need for specializing communication to veterans came from an initial meeting between SHG and Jay Scott, the late and beloved Otero County Veteran Service Officer (VSO), who made it immediately clear the veteran population of southeast Colorado was struggling to make their voices heard. In an effort to increase that volume, the two joined forces to create the Veteran Advisory Committee.
The committee is comprised of a variety of representatives that regularly interact with the veteran population, including VSOs, American Legion Post Commanders, and various support staff of these entities. The committee assists SHG in better understanding the needs of the veterans in an effort to improve direct communication, access to healthcare, and overall improve the quality of lives for veterans in our area.
SHG Chief Executive Officer, Dr. JC Carrica explained the concept behind the advisory committee model.
“We realized there was a flaw in our marketing tactics,” Carrica said. “Using the ‘one size fits all’ model of communication, we were missing a lot of people and groups. We first went to the agriculture community, which completely transformed our way of thinking. Using the ideas of the community we were targeting, we met them where they were at, with language and approaches familiar to them.”
Going to the veterans to ask their needs was an immediate success. The Veteran Advisory Committee immediately got to work, gathering resources for veterans in crisis at the local, state, and national level. The identified resources were arranged into a flow chart to make a quick and easy guide to help their fellow service men and women should they find them in need.
“Within a few days of drafting the veteran crisis flowchart, I had a committee member let me know they had used that chart to save a life. Within a few weeks, I received a similar story. It made me realize how important this work with our advisory committees, as well as at Southeast Health Group really is,” Carrica said.
The Veteran Advisory Committee meetings are well-attended and have grown immensely. What began as a La Junta VSO’s concern has expanded to a team that represents the entire net of rural and frontier communities in all of southeast and south-central Colorado.
“People in remote communities face a unique set of challenges,” Carrica explained, “there can be complications with transportation, scheduling, travel time, and preauthorization in seeking healthcare. When it comes to crisis situations, our committee wants to be sure we have every resource possible to eliminate that barrier, no matter where they live. This group has been extremely passionate in that mission.”
The Veteran Advisory Committee now shares a brick and mortar location with the Agriculture Advisory Committee, under the label The Coffee Break Project, which reminds us all that sometimes we need to check-in with our friends and sit down over a cup of coffee.
For more information about the Veteran Advisory Committee or The Coffee Break Project, contact Hanna Bates at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 719-363-1596. For any other questions about services at Southeast Health Group call 800-511-5446.