Peak Military Care Network

Colorado Springs, CO (population 312,291)

Project Type: Public/Private Community Partnership

Project Contact: Kate Hatten, Military Impact Planning Program Manager, Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments, khatten@ppacg.org

Key take-aways:

• Progress is made when municipal officials and other community stakeholders provide committed and consistent leadership.

• Process started by identifying the area's priority need. Colorado Springs focused on improving behavioral health services rather than attempting to work in multiple areas.

• Centralize the location of information and resources, ensuring the information is regularly updated and formatted in a standardized manner.

In January 1942, the City of Colorado Springs purchased and then donated land to the U.S. War Department for the creation of what is today the U.S. Army's Fort Carson. Since that time, the Fort, the City, and the surrounding region have been inextricably linked.

During the 2005 round of Base Realignment and Closures (BRAC), Fort Carson was chosen as a location for renewed investment. Between December 2006 and December 2009, Fort Carson grew from 12,600 to nearly 25,000 troops, with an additional 1,000 Soldiers scheduled for assignment at Fort Carson over the next three years, and subsequent growth in support industries. The overall result brought the City of Colorado Springs from an adult population of 205,756 in 1990 to 312,291 in 2010, an increase of 17.7%.

The recent growth comes as the area's existing veteran population begins to age in communities across the four counties surrounding the Fort (El Paso, Fremont, Pueblo, and Teller). The region has substantially more veterans then the national average and like national trends, the area's veterans are older and more likely to have some form of disability.

Nationally

Four county area

City of Colorado Springs

Percentage of Veterans

9.3%

16.7%

16.6%

Percentage of Veterans vs. non-veterans with some type of disability

25.8% / 13.5%

22.2% / 14.1%

21.6% / 12.6%

Percentage of veterans vs. non-veterans 55 and older

66.6% / 29.6%

52.6% / 28.6%

49.6% / 26.1%

Data Source: 2011 American Community Survey 3-year estimates

To better understand the impacts that the region's growth would have, the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments began a comprehensive planning effort funded in part with resources provided by the Department of Defense's Office of Economic Adjustment. The effort resulted in the Fort Carson Regional Growth Plan, which forecasted an increase in social service demands, particularly those related to behavioral health. This need was underscored in the wake of several high profile violent crimes involving soldiers who had been deployed on multiple occasions.

Beginning in August 2011, leadership from local stakeholders including city and county officials, the United Way, Veterans Affairs officials, philanthropic leaders, area non-profits, and representatives from Fort Carson and Peterson Air Force Base met to determine how to best address the growing demands. This group came to be called the Peak Military Care Network (PMCN). To better understand what resources existed and would be needed to meet the anticipated growth in demand for social services, a community assessment of available resources and gaps in service was conducted.

The assessment concluded that the needs of veterans and their families were complex and often overlapped multiple areas. To better coordinate existing community services, a service framework was developed with multiple areas of focus. The areas included social service, such as housing, child welfare, behavioral health, domestic violence, medical/physical health, substance abuse, crisis intervention, workforce readiness, education, and advocacy.

In addition to developing the service framework, the PMCN partnered with a web development company to create a Network of Care ®. The Network of Care is a regularly updated web-based platform with information from the local United Way's 211 service, the Area Agency on Aging's Senior Resources, Fort Carson's Warrior Family Partnership, and direct information submitted by community organizations using a standardized format developed by the PMCN. The Network of Care gives service providers, as well as clients, a centralized location for information about government, non-profit, and private resources and opportunities aimed to assist veterans and their families better meet their needs.

To create awareness about the Network of Care, Fort Carson began briefing soldiers about the resources available, and group trainings in area non-profits began occurring. As a result, when the site was launched in the beginning of May 2011, the site initially saw approximately 300 sessions (i.e. visits to the site lasting 1 minute or longer) per day. By the end of that month, the number of sessions had tripled to nearly 900 per day. In May 2012 the site experienced approximately 22,000 sessions and in June 2012 there were nearly 33,000 sessions.