Loading

THE FOURTEENER OFFICIAL NEWSLETTER OF THE va eASTERN COLORADO HEALTH CARE SYSTEM

Welcome to the seventh edition of The Fourteener, the official digital newsletter for the Veterans of VA ECHCS.

We are proud to serve YOU!

Greetings Veterans - In our last edition of The Fourteener, I introduced myself to all of you as your new Director and spoke about my commitment to Veterans, service and the VA. In this edition, I would like to share some of our accomplishments from last fiscal year. As the VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System—which includes one hospital, 11 outlying clinics, a domiciliary, a community living center, a walk-in community resource and referral center and a residential PTSD rehabilitation unit—we collectively provided care to more than 95,000 Veterans, completed 1 million outpatient appointments and conducted almost 5,000 surgeries. I am dedicated to making 2020 an even bigger year for this organization. We plan to open our brand-new Fisher House this spring and break ground on a stand-alone residential PTSD building on the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center campus. In addition to these infrastructure additions, my priorities for this year include increasing your satisfaction with your health care, increasing access and showing all of you why you should continue to choose VA for your health care needs. I want to talk with you to hear what is going well and learn how we could be doing better. I want to have innovative conversations about our way forward with your care. It is my intent to visit all of our clinics at least once a quarter to get out and meet with our Veterans and staff. Please look out for our community engagements, town halls and events on social media and our website moving forward because you are crucial to our collective success. I look forward to meeting you and hearing your story. Together we can make a difference! ~Michael T. Kilmer

* * *

PFC James Dunn VA Clinic in Pueblo, Colorado

Address: 4776 Eagleridge Circle, Pueblo, CO 81008-1667

Phone: 719.553.1000

Open Monday - Friday 7:30 A.M. - 5:30 P.M.

PFC James Dunn VA Clinic by the numbers FY8 - FY19

  • 18,259 unique patients in FY19 (8.4% jump from 16,847 patients in FY18)
  • 2,082 of those are women Veterans (up from 1,989 in FY18)
  • 74,879 total outpatient visits in FY19 (up from 74,284 in FY18)

Pueblo's PFC James Dunn VA: Familiar, friendly faces

Story by Terri Rorke, Public Affairs Specialist

Welcome to Pueblo's PFC James Dunn VA Clinic!

Pueblo's PFC James Dunn VA Clinic serves Veterans in Southern Colorado

Rich in history, the deep-rooted Pueblo, Colorado community is home to PFC Dunn VA Clinic—the center of health care for more than 18,000 Veterans annually.

What services are available at the Pueblo VA Clinic?

  • Audiology
  • Dental Clinic
  • Laboratory: Blood draw services
  • Mental Health (13 providers)
  • Physical Therapy
  • Primary Care Services with specialty care referrals
  • Podiatry Services
  • Prescriptions: via mail or MyHealtheVet (www.myhealth.va.gov)
  • Telehealth Services

PFC James Dunn VA Clinic: Familiar, friendly faces

Rich in history, the deep-rooted Pueblo, Colorado community is home to PFC Dunn VA Clinic—the center of health care for more than 18,000 Veterans annually.

Once a booming steel-producing town, leading the West into the industrial revolution, Pueblo is a ‘big small town’, according to Debbie Pruitt, medical support assistant supervisor at the clinic.

Connection is at the core for the health care professionals who serve their Veteran neighbors at the Pueblo clinic. Nurse Manager Angela Wilkerson says the clinic feels like a community mom-and-pop practice with a family environment. “We all work very well together here sharing the same goal of taking care of our Veterans,” she said.

“When they walk into the lobby, Veterans are greeted by familiar, friendly faces,” Pruitt said. “They recognize us. Many of us went to the same school together growing up.”

PFC Dunn VA Clinic is far-reaching. With 74,879 Veterans outpatient visits last year, not only does the clinic serve Puebloans, but also outlying rural communities and mountain towns. The Pueblo clinic is a convenient option for those who may live up to a two-and-a-half hours’ drive from the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center in Aurora, Colorado.

To ensure continuity of care, rural Veterans can also opt for telehealth services in Pueblo. Wilkerson said telehealth can help meet the needs of patients who may be elderly and without reliable transportation. She often sees patients who have audio-visual challenges, where telehealth plays a vital role in their care. Patients conveniently connect with their Pueblo clinic provider directly through the clinic. Based out of Golden VA Clinic, Pueblo’s Telehealth Primary Care Provider, Dr. Joshua Brauer, travels to the Pueblo clinic two times a month for face-to-face appointments.

Connected to community, PFC Dunn VA Clinic is a choice center for your needs and a place you’re bound to feel at home.

For more information about PFC Dunn VA Clinic, call 719-553-1000.

PFC Dunn VA Clinic staff all dressed up for Halloween 2019

* * *

FY19 Annual Report

Visit www.denver.va.gov/news to find the FY19 Annual Report (top of page) or click here: https://www.denver.va.gov/documents/15JAN2019_VA_ECHCS_Annual_Report_.pdf

Veterans, want to learn more about your VA?

We start every day with a fresh commitment to making life better for you. It's our promise to advance quality care for ALL Veterans. Check out the FY 2019 Annual Report to see how we put Veterans at the center of all we do.

FY19 highlights include:

  • 95,000 Veterans cared for
  • 1 million outpatient appointments completed
  • almost 5,000 surgeries conducted

* * *

Finding community through Women Veterans Health Care Program

Story by Terri Rorke, Public Affairs Specialist

“And now at this point in my life of becoming a mother, VA provides care that integrates with my needs” - Veteran Zuleima Torres Cruz

When Army Veteran Zuleima Torres Cruz went to VA for a routine appointment in March, she found out she would soon become a mother—to her surprise!

But after quickly learning that VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System (ECHCS) is home to a comprehensive Women Veterans Health Care Program, she knew she’d be in supportive hands.

Today at eight-months pregnant, Torres Cruz reflected on why she chose VA maternity services for the birth of her first child. “Since I’ve been a patient at the VA for nine years, they already have a record of my medical history,” Torres Cruz said. “And now at this point in my life of becoming a mother, VA provides care that integrates with my needs.”

Integration is at the heart of VA’s Women Veterans Health Care Program which is designed to ensure timely, continuous care throughout different stages in a Veteran’s life by offering primary care, OB/GYN services and mental health care. VA can also provide mammography, cancer screening, Military Sexual Trauma (MST) care and counseling. Pregnancy prevention and planning services are also offered.

For Veterans who become pregnant, VA provides prenatal care up to 12 weeks at VA and community prenatal care until delivery. Additional benefits include lactation education, supplies, product consultation and support groups.

Throughout their pregnancy, Veterans work directly with an assigned maternal care coordinator who helps expectant mothers navigate their health care needs both within and outside of VA. Over the course of a woman’s pregnancy, this relationship continues to grow through monthly check-ins. Two weeks after the baby is born, the new mothers meet with their OB/GYN provider for a postpartum assessment.

Compared to the general population, women Veterans face a higher risk for depression which is why “it’s really important we do a postpartum depression screening. The general women population is already prone to depression after giving birth,” explained Women Veterans Program Manager Carole Donsbach.

According to a study published in the Journal of Women’s Health (Dec. 2010), “Veterans with a pregnancy were twice as likely to have a diagnosis of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia as those without a pregnancy.” Additionally, women Veterans are at a higher risk of experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) compared to male Veterans (Military Medicine, Jan. 2014 ).

"I’m dedicated to making sure all of women Veterans’ needs are met and am honored to serve them as they have served us"

Fortunately, the Women Veterans Health Care Program serves as a central resource for anything an expectant mother may need. At ECHCS, Donsbach and Maternal Care Coordinator Rashawnda Franklin both said they want to help alleviate expectant mothers’ stress and to provide a seamless process while preparing for a child. “It adds a human component to health services,” Donsbach explained. VA wants to ensure women Veterans receive timely evaluation and are connected to services promptly, she added.

“I’m dedicated to making sure all of women Veterans’ needs are met and am honored to serve them as they have served us,” Franklin said about working with the 177 expectant mothers currently enrolled in the program. “We build confidence. We connect and trust each other.”

Women Veterans make up 11.9 percent of all Veterans enrolled in ECHCS. This percentage equals more than 15,000 women. And 11,770 of those women are going to VA for primary care—a jump of 16 percent from Fiscal Year 2018 to 2019. Also in FY 2019, the number of expectant women Veterans enrolled with ECHCS grew by 6 percent. A number that’s expected to keep climbing as women are the fastest-growing subgroup of Veterans in the country, according to VA.

As she anticipates the arrival of her baby, Torres Cruz encourages her fellow women Veterans to seek out VA care—no matter what they are going through. “Someone needs to let them know they can rely on the VA. When they think the VA can’t do anything for them, it can.”

If you are a Veteran enrolled with ECHCS and would like to learn more about VA’s Women Veterans Health Care Program, please call 720.857.5372.

* * *

rTMS: Hope for persistent depression

Story by Shawn Fury, Medical Media Manager

A recently approved procedure known as Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) is now available for patients. VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System (ECHCS) has taken steps to make the best possible depression treatments available and now offers rTMS treatment to Veterans.

Major depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States and carries the heaviest burden of disability among mental and behavioral disorders, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Many Veterans are no stranger to experiencing depression. In fact, “in 2008, VA estimated about one in five had serious symptoms that suggest the need for further evaluation for major depression and one in eight have major depression.” (VA Office of Research and Development, September 2016).

While depression is a treatable condition, standard treatments aren't always effective for everyone. A recently approved procedure known as Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) is now available for patients. VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System (ECHCS) has taken steps to make the best possible depression treatments available and now offers rTMS treatment to Veterans.

rTMS is a noninvasive procedure that uses powerful magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain, according to Dr. James Haug, a psychiatrist at the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center. Through this procedure, it’s possible to stimulate activity in areas where it is suppressed in depression. rTMS is generally well tolerated. Mild side effects may include lightheadedness, headache, twitching, or discomfort at the site of treatment. These typically improve shortly after a treatment session and decrease over time with additional sessions.

Introducing rTMS treatment at ECHCS “shows our commitment to providing the most up-to-date advanced treatments for depression,” Haug added.

For those whose depression symptoms haven’t improved with standard mental health treatments, rTMS may be a viable option. Talk with your VA mental health provider for more information or referral for rTMS treatment.

* * *

Fisher House: Home on the horizon

By Terri Rorke, Public Affairs Specialist

Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center is getting a new neighbor. Construction on the new Fisher House broke ground in April 2019 and is expected to open by Spring 2020.

Construction progress as of January 2020 on the new Fisher House. Once complete, the house will provide a home away from home featuring 16 suites for loved ones of Veterans receiving inpatient care next door at the Rocky Mountain Regional Medical Center.

Fisher House construction progress between September 2019 - January 2020 on the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center campus. The new Fisher House is expected to open in Spring 2020.

Soon the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center will have a new neighbor. With construction expected to be completed by spring 2020, a brand new 16-suite, 13,500-square foot Fisher House will serve as a ‘home away from home’ at no cost for loved ones of Veterans and active duty military members receiving inpatient medical care next door. The future Fisher House will eventually replace the current Rocky Mountain VA Fisher House located at 1954 Quentin Street in Aurora.

“The Fisher House will not only create an instant community for its residents, united by their common mission of supporting a sick or injured loved one, but also will provide each individual with a secure and private refuge after a long day at the hospital to rest and recharge,” VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System’s Veteran Experience Officer Greg Crenshaw said.

In 1990, founders Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher asked what mission they could undertake to benefit personnel of all military services. Steadfast supporters of the men and women serving this country, the Fishers started the Fisher House Foundation to provide a comfortable environment where families can come together to support one another. Each house features private suites with private baths and common areas, including kitchens, laundry facilities, dining rooms, living rooms and libraries. Newer Fisher Houses are designed larger with elevators to be completely wheelchair accessible. Once the house is constructed on government land (military bases or VA Medical Center grounds), they are donated to the Department of Veterans Affairs and become federal buildings. VA then assumes responsibility for operation, maintenance and upkeep, including staffing.

“It is really wonderful to know that the VA offers support to the family of Veterans through programs like the Fisher House,” guest Kisha Ratliff said. “It is extremely helpful by reducing the financial burdens that medical treatment and hospital stays can create. Having one less thing to stress about provides some calm amidst the myriad of other emotions. I appreciate the opportunity to have stayed at the Fisher House while being there for my mom.”

For more information about the Rocky Mountain Fisher House, please visit www.rockymountainfisherhouse.org.

* * *

VA went smoke and vape free at all its facilities on October 1, 2019. Want help to quit? VA's free telephone quitline, 1-855-QUIT-VET (1-855-784-8838), offers tobacco cessation counseling to any Veteran who receives their health care through VA. Sign up for SmokefreeVET by texting VET to 47848 to receive texts with tips and tools to beat the urge to smoke whenever it crops up. Remember to plan small rewards for yourself and ways to celebrate milestones along the way with your family and friends!

* * *

Sports program offers way for athletes to adapt

Story by Terri Rorke

When Jatáya Taylor, a natural athlete, experienced a series of U.S. Marine Corps training injuries that would not heal, she didn’t choose to give up - instead, she found a new way to adapt.

If there’s one thing every warrior understands well, it is how to adapt. When Jatáya Taylor, a natural athlete, experienced a series of U.S. Marine Corps training injuries that would not heal, she didn’t choose to give up ­­– instead, she found a new way to adapt.

After leaving the military, Taylor was diagnosed with a rare connective tissue disorder. Her condition worsened over time and by 2013 she was using a wheelchair full-time.

Feeling displaced, Taylor soon discovered the Adaptive Sports Grant Program through the National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events Office (NVSP&SE). The VA-facilitated program works with countless community partners providing an array of adaptive sports opportunities that can serve as recreation therapy.

It wasn’t long before Taylor competed in her first national game where recruiters observed her athletic abilities at the 2014 National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Philadelphia. A recruiter asked if she wanted to try competing in a biathlon (a winter sport combining cross-country skiing and rifling shooting). “When I asked what it was, he said it was a type of skiing that required a lot of hard work. It’s funny because that was actually part of what sold me on it,” Taylor said.

For Taylor, the adaptive sports program became a way to return to her athletic roots and enjoy the outdoors. It also “keeps my mental health strong,” she said.

Even after electing to amputate her left leg in 2017 to improve quality of life, there’s been no sign of Taylor slowing down. Year-round, you’ll find her either competing in national biathlons or basketball games —her two passions.

Taylor finds camaraderie while training with fellow service members and connects with other athletes who’ve undergone amputation. She keeps busy swimming and training between tournaments. The adaptive sports program has become such a fundamental part of Taylor’s life, she said she doesn’t know what she would do without it.

Marine Veteran Jatáya Taylor competes in national biathlons and basketball games year-round.
“Programs like these promote community reintegration and help empower Veterans to stretch beyond any and all perceived limitations.”

Fortunately for Veterans like Taylor, at the end of September, VA awarded $2,252,834 in grants to 14 Colorado organizations that provide adaptive sports programs. Twelve of these organizations lie within the VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System’s (ECHCS) catchment area and directly impact the Veterans they serve.

“By collaborating with our community partners, our Recreation Therapy department has blossomed into new recreation opportunities to help prepare our Veterans for not only the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, but also the National Veterans Golden Age Games,” said ECHCS Recreation Therapy Supervisor, Adeline Velasquez. “We can also provide exposure to a variety of adaptive skiing in preparation for the National Veterans Winter Sports Clinic.”

VA awarded 126 grants nationally, totaling $14.8 million. It is projected these organizations will reach approximately 11,000 Veterans and service members from every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

“We are honored to team-up with our community partners by providing adaptive sports opportunities for our Veterans,” said VA ECHCS Director Michael Kilmer. “Programs like these promote community reintegration and help empower Veterans to stretch beyond any and all perceived limitations.”

Not only do adaptive sports help Veterans like Taylor improve their independence and well-being, but it’s also a fulfilling way to adapt to the new life they’ve gained.

If you are a Veteran enrolled with ECHCS and would like to learn more about local adaptive sports opportunities, call Recreation Therapy at 720.723.3055. For more information about the awardees and the program visit www.va.gov/adaptivesports and @Sports4Vets on social media.

* * *

Veterans, the U.S. Census is coming April 2020! Did you know taking the census directly impacts the amount of federal funds given annually to Colorado equaling billions of dollars? Colorado receives more than $13 billion dollars per year based on Decennial Census data. Your responses provided on the 2020 Census questionnaire or to a Census Bureau employee are confidential and protected under Title 13 of the U.S. Code. Learn more at www.auroracensus2020.org.

* * *

Connect with us!

Created By
Richard McMullen
Appreciate