Full-time Teller Veterans Service Officer Appointed to Grapple With Mental Health Challenges

County Commissioners Remain Committed to Assisting Area Veterans

Trevor Phipps

Recently, sadness struck the  community after details unfolded regarding a local suicide incident, involving a military veteran, that snagged much media attention.

Unfortunately, these cases are too familiar for civic leaders, veteran group representatives and mental health officials.  The statistics show that veterans have a higher rate of suicide than people who haven’t served in the military. This crisis only got worse, following the devastating COVID-19 epidemic.

 And, since Teller County has a high population of military veterans, suicide prevention is an issue that county leaders take very seriously. Actually, there are several organizations in the county that focus on suicide prevention and mental health in general.

According to Teller County Commission Vice-Chairman  Dan Williams, the county is very focused on providing support for veterans within the community. There are also organizations, such as the local American Legion and Veterans of Foreign War (VFW) posts,  that work towards helping veterans of all ages, noted Williams.

Williams who is a combat veteran himself, says that the new board of commissioners wants to support the rather large local veteran community. “There are a lot of veterans up here and we think it is about one out of every four men and one out of every nine women,” Williams said. “So, there is a large population of the demographic that has probably seen things (other than maybe law enforcement officers) that generally people don’t see. I can tell you that the entire board of commissioners and the county government take suicide prevention very seriously.”

He said that the COVID-19 pandemic heightened the awareness of public officials due to isolation and other factors created. Last year, the county recorded 17 suicides with a good percentage of these involving a veteran or someone who formerly served in the armed forces.

Williams said that when many veterans move to the area, the first step they take is to join a veteran-related organization like the American Legion or VFW to find people they can relate with. Those organizations all have a “buddy check system” that will offer support, if they find someone who could be struggling with mental health issues.

He also said that the churches within the community have mental health programs that will reach out to people struggling as well. “I have had a lot of experience with suicide and suicide prevention being in the military for over 30 years,” the commissioner explained. “Generally (but not always) the attempts or the discussion of ending a life is a cry for help. So, when we hear that, there are groups of people and organizations that jump on that.”

The county also offers certain services to veterans, and they even employ a Veterans Service Officer (VSO). Due to an increase in the number of veterans in the area, the board of commissioners decided to make the VSO position full time as opposed to limiting the  VSO to a part-time role.

Cindy Meyer, a well-known figure in the community, is now the county’s VSO. She has an office in Woodland Park and also works out of the Aspen Mine Center in Cripple Creek every Wednesday. Meyer is a veteran herself, and also spent decades as a high school teacher in Woodland Park.

“Each county in Colorado has a Veterans Service Office that offers free assistance to veterans”, Meyer explained. “Veterans and their dependents may be entitled to a range of federal and state services, including assistance in the processing of disability claims, pensions, death benefits, educational benefits, military records, VA loans, medical assistance, and advocacy on behalf of veterans on issues affecting them and their dependents.”

For more information about the veteran services offered in the county, contact Cindy Meyer at 719-686-5526 or stop by the Woodland Park office at 800 Research Drive, Suite 230, on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday or Wednesdays at the Cripple Creek office in the Aspen Mine Center, 166 E Bennett Ave.