COLORADO SPRINGS, CO. (KRDO) - To minimize veteran suicide across Colorado, Senate President Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo, is working to pass this bill that would lay the groundwork for a pilot program for veterans.
The bill, which aims to establish a veteran suicide prevention pilot program, passed unanimously through committee in the Colorado State Senate last Thursday.
This bill would call for the Colorado Department of Human Services to establish a five-year pilot program in El Paso County, an area with the highest population of veterans.
Colorado is home to several military bases and installations, including Fort Carson, Peterson Air Force Base, and the Air Force Academy.
Democratic Senate President Leroy Garcia understands the gravity of this bill, being a Marine Corps veteran himself.
"I attribute my transition from the military back to civilian life in having resources and support," said Garcia.
This bill offers an opportunity to non-profits and educational groups that have the infrastructure and outline to be able to provide these types of services. The program would also help veteran's families receive help.
"The cost of this is about $1.6 million, how it works is they would apply under the department so that they can outline how they will implement this program," said Garcia.
Duane France, Director of Veteran Services at the Family Care Center in Southern Colorado, says this would be extremely beneficial to those who cannot afford help.
"There are barriers to care related to whether or not they are eligible for the Department of Veterans Affairs, maybe they don't have access or the funds to pay for behavioral health on their own, so this is really a way for the state of Colorado to be able to support veterans. This will reduce barriers to accessing mental health care," said France.
Suicide rates among veterans and current service members have been on the rise for years. In 2019 56 veterans took their own life in El Paso County.
The bill will now refer to the committee on appropriations -- before it heads back to the senate to be approved and sent to the Colorado House of Representatives.