Town Hall in Craig gives veterans opportunity to meet Veterans Health Care System officials
April 19, 2018
CRAIG — Officials from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs met with Northwest Colorado Veterans in a Town Hall on Thursday, April 12, hosted by the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars.
During the question-and-answer part of the event, many veterans asked what officials are doing to help those who are not adequately connected to medical and mental health care systems, a fact that contributes to high suicide rates in Colorado, especially in rural areas of the state.
"If you know a vet, get them in," said Grand Junction Veterans Health Care System Director Michael Kilmer.
Kilmer assumed leadership of the Grand Junction VA system about a year ago. He has ambitious plans to increase the number of veterans served by the system from 16,000 to 20,000 by 2020.
The Grand Junction VA Medical Center covers about 17 counties in three states. It includes the Tele-Health center in Craig and a new mobile clinic, which Kilmer expects to visit the area later this year.
A veteran of the Coast Guard with a background in social work, he said it is critical for the community of veterans and their families to take an active role in the outreach process.
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"He's become known for streamlining processes and building motivated teams who understand the challenges of the system and figuring out ways to say, ‘yes’ to veterans," said Shawn Montgomery, Grand Junction VA Health Care System public affairs officer and veteran.
Montgomery started his work at the beginning of the year and has been tasked with helping support Kilmer's aggressive outreach program.
"I'm a First Infantry Division Combat Medic, deployed to Kosovo and Operation Iraqi Freedom II. I was a firefighter/paramedic for 10 years with the city of Grand Junction before entering into the PR life," Montgomery said.
The Town Hall also included presentations about the goals of the Grand Junction/Western Slope Veterans Administration, a transformational plan of care, physician recruitment, primary care teams and Women's Health outreach events.
Before breaking into sessions that gave veterans the opportunity to talk with officials about their particular circumstances, Montgomery asked attendees to let him know about events happening in the community he should attend.
Craig businessman and veteran Michael Lauson immediately mentioned Whittle the Wood, which he said is expected to draw a crowd of more than 10,000 people.
Montgomery wasn't prepared to commit but expressed interest in learning more.
"Get ready to see us more often and with more resources," Montgomery said during an interview in the days following the Town Hall. "I am building an outreach team of resources that will come to town with answers and solutions to better serve our veterans."
He said he wants veterans to know he has a stake in helping Kilmer's plans for growth and improvement succeed.
"I have skin in the game, and this is my hospital system, just like everyone else," Montgomery said. "I need this system to work smoothly, and if it is not working smoothly, I want to know about it."
Contact Montgomery at 970-244-1324 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.