Bennet Launches Colorado Panel On Veterans Mental Health

Panel Comes at Recommendation of Bennet's Veterans Working Group

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today launched the first meeting of a panel organized to take a comprehensive look at mental health issues affecting veterans, with the specific goal of reducing the high rate of veteran suicide. This panel, comprised of mental health and medical professionals, members of the military and experts who work with veterans from throughout the state, was formed in response to a request from Bennet's Veterans Working Group.

In February, the Department of Veterans Affairs released a report finding that 22 veterans commit suicide each day. Bennet’s Veterans Working decided to make veterans mental health a priority for its work in the upcoming year.

"The fact that 22 veterans are committing suicide every day is simply unacceptable," Bennet said. "And over the next five years we can expect around one million more men and women in uniform to return to civilian life." 

"Now is the time for us to figure out how we can do a better job identifying and treating veterans with mental health issues and I have asked this panel to help me figure out the path forward."

“In order to respond to the increasing challenges that veterans are encountering upon separation from the military, it is imperative that we understand the psychological and cognitive injuries that many veterans face,” said panel co-chair and Operation TBI Freedom Manager Jennifer Anderson. “By bringing together experts to sit on the Veterans Mental Health Panel, Senator Bennet is providing a launching pad for recommendations that can be addressed on a national level to improve the lives of veterans here in Colorado and across the country.”

The panel is composed of mental health and medical professionals, as well as members of the military and statewide leaders experienced in behavioral health issues among veterans. A full list of Front Range panel members is below.  Bennet's office is also holding a meeting in Grand Junction.

The panel plans to provide a list of recommendations for how to improve mental health services for veterans later this spring.

Senator Bennet has been a longtime advocate for veterans issues. In 2011, he convened a Colorado Veterans Forum to identify ways to make Colorado the best state for service members, veterans, and their families to live and work. The recommendations that emerged from that forum were included in a report released later that year, Better Serving Those Who Have Served. Bennet’s Veterans Working Group was formed to implement these recommendations, which included improving mental health services for veterans.

Members of the Panel:

Izzy Abbass (Commander, VFW Post 1)
Jennifer Anderson (Program Manager, Rocky Mountain Human Services)
Mary Ellen Benson (Director of Counseling Services, Aspen Pointe)
Ralph Bozella (Chair, United Veterans Committee of Colorado)
Sgt. First Class Keith Byers (Trauma Support, CO Nat’l Guard)
Brian Duncan (CEO, A Family Harbor)
Heather Ehle (Executive Director, Project Sanctuary)
Maj. Brian Everitt (Air Force Space Command Mental Health Consultant)
Col. Andrew Grantham (US Chief in Training, US Warrior Transition)
Susan Holmes (Army Wounded Warrior Program)
Janet Karnes (Executive Director, Suicide Prevention Pikes Peak Region)
Leo Martinez (Lead Veteran Peer Mentor, Veterans Trauma Court)
Gary Mears (American Board of Professional Neuropsychology, University of the Rockies)
Lt. Col. Joel Tanaka (Chief, Department of Primary Care, Fort Carson)
Lt. Col. Chuck Weber (Chief, Department of Behavioral Health, Fort Carson)
Laura Williams (Colorado Department of Human Services, Division of Behavioral Health)