Healing Warriors Program seeks to help veterans tackle PTSD, sleep issues and more
By TAMARA MARKARD | Greeley Tribune | Published: February 14, 2021
(Tribunes News Service) — As suicide continues to be a primary concern for mental health care providers, a Fort Collins, Colorado, nonprofit organization is focusing on trying to lower suicide rates in military veterans.
The Healing Warriors Program, founded by Ana Pallés Yelen and Rochelle Poland, is working to bring awareness to free services offered to veterans of all ages in hopes of lowering veteran suicides in Colorado.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the average number of veteran suicides per day in 2018 was 17.6, totaling 6,435 deaths.
Nearly 60,000 veterans currently live in northern Colorado — with that number climbing as more service members are discharged.
The Healing Warriors Program offers non-narcotic treatments such as acupuncture, craniosacral therapy and Healing Touch therapy to help veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, alleviate pain, restore sleep and improve their overall health and well being.
"These modalities were chosen with design and purpose," Yelen said. "And all of these therapies are licensed or certified. They are effective and have a protocol and treatment standards."
Acupuncture focuses on stimulating points along energy pathways in the body. During the process, a practitioner will set between six and 20 thin needles into specific points on the body. The needles stimulate the skin's surface, promoting circulation, wound healing and pain management.
"Acupuncture is one of the fastest things we have for pain relief," she explained. "Our big issues in the veteran community are pain and neuropathy."
Healing Touch therapy uses gentle hand techniques that help re-pattern a patient's energy field and accelerate healing of the body and mind.
"It is very much focused on different points along the body. It's kind of like acupressure but lighter," Yelen said. "It is a series of structured holds along the body to achieve certain outcomes."
Amongst other things, Healing Touch therapy can help veterans with sleep issues.
Craniosacral therapy is a non-invasive, hands-on healing practice that focuses on the rhythmic pulses that radiates through the body along the spine to the brain.
"The whole point of craniosacral therapy is to feel for the pulse of the cerebral spinal fluid and see where there may be some restrictions," she said. "This is not a manipulative therapy like chiropractic care where they are pushing hard."
Craniosacral therapy works well for patients that have had a traumatic brain injury, Yelen said.
The Wellness and Preventive Care Program, WPCP, is geared toward veterans age 60 years and older and their family members. The program is designed to help them with balance, reduce chronic pain, as well as enhance focus and awareness.
Acupuncture, craniosacral and Healing Touch therapies all are provided as six-session programs, with WPCP being offered as a 12-session program.
The nonprofit also has a client care navigator that can assist veterans find and connect with resource for a variety of issues such as housing and food.
"We try to connect the dots because a lot of times veterans are in need of different things and it is hard for them to figure out where to go," Yelen said.
Yelen and Poland initially began coordinating the services as an annual free Service Day event. The first event took place in 2007 at The Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum in Englewood.
However, as veteran suicide rates continued to rise, Yelen and Poland saw a need for these types of services to be available to veterans year around.
That's when they decided to turn the annual event into a nonprofit. The Healing Warriors Program opened its first clinic in July 2013.
"We didn't know if anybody would come and we didn't have any money for marketing. We were basically relying on word of mouth," Yelen said. "And it exploded. There were veterans who came in to check us out. Veterans tell each other things; it's a tight-knit group."
The clinic has been such a great success that the organization has had to move twice over the past few years because they outgrew their space.
The clinic is currently located at 1044 W. Drake Road, Suite 202 in Fort Collins.
To date, the nonprofit has conducted over 15,000 sessions for veterans.
"Veterans who are on VA benefits can come in for acupuncture through their benefits," Yelen explained. "For the PTSD series we are doing, it is 100% free."
The nonprofit relies on grants and donations to help provide veterans with care free of charge when they can.
"Everybody is entitled to a series of six free sessions," Yelen said. "We want our veterans to come in and get care."
For more information on the Healing Warriors Program, or to make a donation, go to www.healingwarriorsprogram.org.