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GRAND JUNCTION, Col. (KFQX) — Following President Biden’s address, veteran hospitals across the nation and the people they serve are set to benefit from new lifesaving funding.

The Western Slope VA is wasting no time using that funding to address two serious unresolved issues: mental health and addiction, “Veterans are the back bone and the spine of this country they are the best of us, I’ve always believed that we have the sacred obligation of protecting those we send to war and care for those and their families when they come home,” President Biden said.

Mental health professionals say more than 80 veteran hospital visits a year, are linked to substance abuse disorder, “When we had people admitted to the hospital because of their mental health issues, we found out a significant portion of those issues were related to substance abuse disorders,” Anna Crickmer, VA Assistant Engineering Chief said.

When the Western Slope VA cares for veterans who have substance abuse disorder, most are sent to Montana. Grand Junction’s VA says that’s changing, “We hope that by treating them in a residential situation that the mental health issues that cause people to be hospitalized will be reduced,” Crickmer said.

VA leaders chose Grand Junction to open the state’s first and only residential rehab and treatment center, “There is a great need in the community so we will be reducing the load, the burden of care in the community by taking care of our own veterans here in their home station,” Crickmer said.

The substance abuse residential rehabilitation treatment program(SARRTP) along with other significant new improvements wouldn’t happen without federal funds, “My administration provided job training and housing and now helping lower income veterans to get VA care debt free,” President Biden said.

The new VA floor design includes moving the current in-patient unit to make room for the treatment center, “We will provide that specific service to the entire state of Colorado because there is no current residential program in the state of Colorado so we will be the first,” Crickmer said.

The final design allows the VA to switch back to an in-patient unit quickly, if needed in the future.

The program is scheduled to open to veterans as soon as April.

President Biden was passionate in his State of the Union address when he invoked the memory of his lost son Beau and linked his death with exposure to burn pits. He went on to assure voters, that Congress just passed bipartisan legislation to expand health care access for veterans exposed to toxins from burn pits while serving in the military.

The bill would ensure coverage for about two dozen types of respiratory illnesses like bronchitis and asthma as well as certain cancers, but the legislation faces an uncertain future in the senate, “Our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan faced many dangers, one being stationed at bases where they were breathing toxic chemicals from burn pits,” President Biden says, “These burn pits that ingenerate waste, the waste of war, many of the worlds finest and best trained warriors in the world, never the same.”

KREX 5 News will take a deeper dive into linking toxic exposure to disease in the following weeks.


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