EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. — A first of its kind veteran suicide prevention program has been launched in El Paso County. UCHealth is leading the grant-funded program that can serve up to 700 veterans and their family members per year.

In 2020 an average of one veteran died by suicide each week in El Paso County, according to UCHealth.

The COVID-19 pandemic isolated all of us and for veterans it only escalated that feeling, but help is here. “With this and us coming out of COVID it’s a perfect time for veterans to reconnect with other veterans and get the help that they have waited to get for the last two years,” said Ken Curtner, Lead Clinician for Military Affairs at UCHealth.

UCHealth is leading the veteran suicide prevention program that is made by veterans for veterans: “Veterans who have walked the walk if you will,” said Damian McCabe, Director of UCHealth Behavioral Health and Military Affairs.

The new program, also known as Next Chapter, is designed to help veterans and their family members to think about what’s next for them in life, “As a veteran myself I’ve got three deployments downrange and so my personal transition was pretty difficult,” Curtner said.

Next Chapter will serve as a one-stop-shop for veterans that will include therapy, counseling, help finding employment and access to housing support at no cost. “We look at it as a journey and it’s not something that’s discrete,” McCabe said. “Most of us who are veterans who have served, thought about our transition ahead of actually leaving the service and try to plan for that.”

But of course things don’t always go according to plan, “It’s pretty difficult for the transition, there’s a lot of red tape, there’s barriers,” Curtner said, “What we created was a single access point where veterans can go to the website or the phone number and then they’ll be able to connect with other veterans to help them with their transition.”

Veterans and their family members can easily access services online at www.nextchapterco.org or by calling 1-888-719-VETS.