COLORADO SPRINGS — Tomorrow is Veterans Day, a time to set aside to honor those who served our country. However, a local organization is helping veterans and active duty military all year long.
Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center in Colorado Springs and has helped nearly 35,000 people since opening its doors four years ago. The Center offers plenty of resources to those who fought for our country, including behavioral health services.
Staff at Mt. Carmel are helping veterans who have experienced trauma regardless of their discharge status. Part of the behavioral health services include things like individual counseling, couple's therapy, free retreats, trauma-focused yoga, and PTSD-focused art.
Their goal is to provide a safe space to support local veterans who have experienced trauma.
"They do find that it's very effective and it's a safe place for them to share their story, unpack their traumas or grief and just to feel connected and supported," said Kirsten Belaire, the director of behavioral health for Mt. Carmel.
Veterans can take as many classes or sessions as they'd like. Staff at Mt. Carmel, including Belaire, say they will help a veteran as long as they need it.
"It's an honor and a gift to walk alongside people as they're navigating their wounds and their traumas and their hurts, and then to remind them to inherit their own resilience, and to conquer the fears or the anxieties or depressions that have kept them trapped for so many years," said Belaire.
Staff at the Veterans Center also work with about 40 local partners in our community, including Medicare Mentors, which is a team of about 20 people who help veterans or active military navigate the challenges in signing up for medicare.
Staff understand enrolling in benefits can be hard to understand for some people so their goal is to make sure local veterans know all their options and are taken care of.
"Medicare can be very challenging, because you have medicare, you have VA healthcare, you have Tri-care for life. They're a lot of different programs that all come together and sometimes they work well together, but sometimes they don't," said Rich Lewis, the co-owner of Medicare Mentors. "So as fellow veterans we are passionate about helping the veteran community understand what they can do and what works best for them."
Lewis is a veteran himself, serving 22 years in the army. He told News5 there's a reason he's so passionate about helping others with their benefits.
"When I retired and I was taking care of my parents, we went to the emergency room and discovered that my parents had a type of insurance that they didn't need. The results were they spent more than $35,000 on an insurance plan that was not paying for anything for them," said Lewis. "That shocked me, so that was what planted the seed for me to serve the veteran community, so nobody experiences the same thing my parents did."
Medicare mentors work closely with insurance companies and providers to find the best benefits for veterans and active duty military. Mentors say now is also a good time to look into your benefit options, that way you have all the information you need to make informed decisions for 2021.