Medora hosts ND Cares event for veterans
MEDORA --Dozens of people filled the Medora Community Center on Thursday for a day of learning about the wide array of issues facing veterans, service members and military families in southwestern North Dakota and the resources and agencies that ...
MEDORA -Dozens of people filled the Medora Community Center on Thursday for a day of learning about the wide array of issues facing veterans, service members and military families in southwestern North Dakota and the resources and agencies that assist them.
The event was made possible through ND Cares, an organization established by former Gov. Jack Dalrymple in 2015 as a way to improve collaboration and coordination of agencies that provide services to veterans and resolve gaps or barriers in these services to ensure that current and former military members receive the care and assistance they need, according to the ND Cares website.
Executive Director of ND Cares Darcie Handt helped organize speakers for Thursday's event.
"ND Cares is a support network to care for people before crisis time and be there for them when crisis does hit," Handt said. "It's not all about veterans; it's also about service members, veterans' families and survivors, caring for them."
The event opened with remarks from the North Dakota National Guard's Adj. Gen. Alan Dohrmann and was followed by speakers who touched on a wide range of veterans issues and services.
Speech topics included homelessness among the veteran population, support for behavioral health and substance abuse issues, veteran outreach efforts and collaboration among government agencies, police and hospitals in dealing with veterans issues.
The event was primarily organized by Medora City Auditor Carla Steffen and Billings County Auditor Marcia Lamb.
When the ND Cares initiative was rolled out in 2015, Steffen jumped at the opportunity and helped make Medora the first ND Cares city in the state. The program has since expanded to reach 36 communities across North Dakota.
"I'm hoping that we're opening the door for southwest North Dakota to get more information," Steffen said. "Sometimes we can be isolated to the services compared to the eastern part of the state. Even today, I've had my eyes opened to all of the services available to veterans and others."
Lamb said that she felt it was important to get involved with Medora's ND Cares as she herself is a veteran herself who had a positive experience at an ND Cares event in Jamestown.
I got a phone call one day and it was an individual in crisis, so I called (ND Cares) immediately," Lamb said. "Within 10 minutes I had resources to give to this individual and their family that really helped. It gives me chills just knowing that these things are out there."
Steffen and Lamb were also very encouraged by the turnout and that local businesses were willing to sponsor the event and provide food.
Dickinson Mayor Scott Decker was in attendance and said that the event will spur him to try to get the city of Dickinson involved as an ND Cares city, hopefully as early as this November.
"Maybe we should have been on a few years ago, but it's time now," Decker said, "I think there are vets that aren't as proactive (in getting service) and organizations like this can help create the community knowledge to help veterans."
As a veteran of Operation Desert Storm, Decker is well aware of issues and challenges that members of the military face when they return to civilian life. He said that his family, community and experiences with veteran service agencies were all extremely supportive and important to his own re-acclimation, but he realizes that others might not have the support network he did.
"I think the biggest issues facing veterans is the amount of suicides, nationwide-22 a day. That's outrageous," Decker said. "Everybody deals with combat in their own way. We just have to have the resources available at their darkest hour."
Jessica Clifton, veteran service officer for Stark, Dunn, Billings and Hettinger counties, spoke to attendees about the work she does with veterans in the Dickinson area. Clifton believes that ND Cares provides an important platform for her to learn about the work of other agencies and believes it would be a good idea for Dickinson to become an ND Cares city.
"It'll be a huge plus to bring in everybody to work together for the betterment of the veteran," she said, "This will bring on more agencies or organizations in Dickinson that I don't know about that will be able to provide something to veterans, even jobs."
Steffen said she was really impressed by the group of people brought together for ND Cares and was excited about improving services for veterans and other service members in Medora and elsewhere.
"There can be a lot of negativity in the world. This has just been a really positive collaboration, to bring people together for something positive."