Veterans in Chisago County have another new place to turn if they’re struggling with depression, addiction or reintegration into civilian life.
The Chisago County Veterans Services Office recently obtained a grant that allowed it to form VetCorps and hire a coordinator who will provide support to veterans and military families with a special emphasis on serving the needs of the National Guard and Reserve veterans and their families.
Kory Deling is that coordinator, and he’s been working closely for a couple of months with Al Budde, the county’s veterans services officer, to help veterans in need.
VetCorps partners with the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, the National Guard Bureau’s Prevention, Treatment and Outreach Program, the Corporation for National and Community Service and Community Partnership with Youth & Families in North Branch.
“VetCorps is a national project that utilizes community coalitions that address the health, housing and employment challenges that veterans and military service members and their families face,” Deling said at the May 1 Chisago County Board of Commissioners meeting.
Deling offered some eye-opening statistics about the struggles veterans face upon returning from active duty.
“I’m sure you all know that veterans in general struggle throughout the United States,” he said to the board. “Minnesota has particularly struggled. They rank highest for suicide rate among National Guard units throughout the United States.”
He added, “In Minnesota, veterans have a higher unemployment rate than nonveterans. Twenty-three percent of all homeless in Minnesota are veterans. Seventy-six percent of all veterans will experience alcohol, drug or mental health problems in their lives.”
The struggles are many for veterans, but Deling stressed there is help available.
“VetCorps is working tirelessly to try to reduce those numbers and strengthen our veterans and military families,” he said.
Commissioner Lora Walker asked Deling how veterans can contact him if they’re in need of help.
He said veterans or their families can call him at 651-674-4085 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Commissioner Mike Robinson asked Deling about helping veterans transition back to civilian life.
“It seems to me a lot of the vets when they come back home, they’re completely different than when they left,” he said. “I can see why they’re struggling. What can be done to try to get them back to the way they were before?”
Deling explained there are “levels of care” that struggling veterans need to go through before they’re able function again in society, and VetCorps can help them get that care through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and other organizations that work to ensure veterans are getting the care they need.
“The charge of VetCorps is connecting these veterans and military families to service opportunities so they can feel at home again,” he said.
Other board actions
Also during the meeting, the board:
• Approved a water plan. The purpose of the plan is to obtain and use resources (levy and grant funds) to protect, improve and conserve the water resources of Chisago County including lakes, river, wetlands and groundwater.
• Approved the construction of a shelter and play area at Fish Lake Township Hall.
• Approved a capital improvement project to renovate the east parking lot of the Chisago County Government Center.
Commissioner Mike Robinson voted against the project, noting the $66,000 allocated to the renovation would be better spent on county roads.
“A lot of county roads are 10 times worse than that,” he said. “I’m just against that.”