By Luke Graham, Writer/Editor, Regis University
Josh Kreimeyer’s wide grin and raised cheekbones give him away.
The Regis University affiliate faculty member in the Division of Counseling and Family Therapy knows he’s in a good space. Sitting in a brown leather chair in mid-August, his excitement is audible. “This,” Kreimeyer said, motioning with his hands to the left and right, “is a game-changer.”
By “this,” Kreimeyer is talking about a recent partnership that Regis entered into with the Mt. Carmel Center of Excellence in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The 16,000 square-foot center, which officially had its grand opening in late July, houses more than 30 organizations that support active-duty military and veterans. Other organizations include legal services, employment assistance, life transition peer-navigators and behavioral health services, among others.
On the second level, Regis’ Center for Counseling and Family Therapy occupies a counseling room where Kreimeyer and associate professor Jim Ungvarsky bring Master’s students twice a week to help with counseling sessions for military, veterans and their families.
Students pursuing Regis postgraduate Counseling Military Families Certificates are gaining valuable real-world experience by providing counseling on site. The work fills a need in the community by providing veterans and their families with low-cost or no-cost counseling. Considering a lack of resources, and often long wait times to see counselors through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the work the students are providing becomes all the more important.
The partnership, and the exemplary work of Regis’ counseling program, has also led to a $50,000 grant from the Colorado Springs Health Foundation for the University’s Division of Counseling and Family Therapy. The funding will support the delivery of behavioral health services to couples, children and families at Mt. Carmel, as well as Regis’ Center for Counseling and Family Therapy on its Colorado Springs Campus.
The partnership is a natural move for Regis, which in recent years has catered programs to fit the needs of veterans. In addition to two Veteran Resource Centers, the University recently created the Regis University Military Scholars Fund. The fund helps military students and dependent children or spouses of service members who died in the line of duty to complete their academic degrees at Regis University.
“This partnership is huge for our students,” said Linda Osterlund, associate dean of the Division of Counseling and Family Therapy. “This will set us apart as they will have the opportunity to gain valuable experience by providing supervised counseling and family therapy services to military personnel and their families.”
It becomes all the more paramount in the military town 65 miles south of Denver. Colorado Springs is home to the United States Air Force Academy, and has the largest population of veterans in Colorado.
With so many veteran-focused organizations under one roof, Mt. Carmel is a one-stop shop for military, veterans and their families.
While that may seem like a novel concept, the idea of having everything under one roof is essential for veterans. While in the military, anything a person would need is easily available. But as soon as one leaves, entering civilian life can be tough.
“Getting out is like when you left high school and went out on your own,” said Rick Simmons, a 24-year Air Force veteran who will begin his Master’s and start working with veterans at Mt. Carmel this fall. “That’s the feeling a veteran has when he leaves the service.”
Simmons, who is a work study at the Colorado Springs Campus Veterans Resource Center, said seeing what’s happening with Regis and Mt. Carmel is a powerful thing for veterans.
Sitting at the Regis Veterans Resource Center on a recent day, Simmons talked about volunteering earlier in the day at Mt. Carmel.
A veteran came in and said that he couldn’t get in touch with his family. He didn’t have a place to stay, food, money or a job. In less than an hour, he’d been counseled, found housing, built a resume and even got a job.
“For 30 minutes we were rallying around this guy,” Simmons said. “He walks out crying. It’s fascinating to see all the agencies come together and on any given day that’s how it is.”
To Kreimeyer, that’s what this partnership is all about. As a U.S. Army veteran, he knows how tough leaving the service is. Like many veterans, he grappled with adjusting back to civilian life after returning from service.
Eventually he found counseling and got a postgraduate Certificate in Marriage and Family Therapy from Regis’ Division of Counseling and Family Therapy. He also helped develop Regis’ postgraduate Counseling Military Families Certificate and worked to move the program 100 percent online.
Now he’s helping veterans like himself, while also giving students a first-hand look at what it takes to be a successful counselor.
“There is nothing like this out there,” Kreimeyer said. “This is what makes Regis great. This is a very rich environment that other programs don’t have. When you counsel people, you have people’s lives in your hands. That’s scary. But here we have a robust training that gets them ready. It’s usually crawl, walk, run. With this, students are already walking and running.”