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Program aims to help veterans fight loneliness

To help combat the isolation and loneliness many veterans are feeling because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they are being “connected” with area volunteers who will check on them and see if there is anything they need.

Called Heroes for Heroes, the new program recently launched statewide by the Nevada Department of Veterans Services.

The program pairs veterans with volunteers who will call or visit online with veterans at least twice a week.

“Everyone needs a little social interaction,” said Rachel Jelenic, health care initiative program manager for the Department of Veterans Services.

She added volunteers also are being trained to provide veterans-centric referrals.

With limited or no access to their regular services, such as transportation to doctors’ appointments or medical or food deliveries, veterans were contacting the department for help.

“We had a lot of veterans and caregivers reach out and express a need for transportation,” Jelenic said.

The program is based on a similar one offered by the department’s partner, the Nevada Ensures Support Together Collaborative. Jelenic said the veterans’ department learned about its success with those 60 and older who are homebound or disabled through its participation with the Family Connections Task Force, an interagency group working to respond to the isolation many veterans are facing.

“We hope that Heroes for Heroes will serve as a resource of support and camaraderie for veterans in the community looking for connection,” said Amy Garland, deputy director for the veterans’ department. “The COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the most difficult turn of events we have yet to face, and Heroes for Heroes can serve as a sense of social stability that many have been missing.”

Jelenic said residents of the Southern Nevada State Veterans Home in Boulder City are one of the main populations they hope to serve with the program and expect to begin connecting them with volunteers in the next week or two.

“What we really want now are homebound veterans,” she added. “We have avid volunteers who are always trying to better their communities.”

Registration is open for volunteers and veterans and can be found at https://veterans.nv.gov/heroes.

For additional information, call Jelenic at 775-825-9849.

Hali Bernstein Saylor is editor of the Boulder City Review. She can be reached at hsaylor@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9523. Follow @HalisComment on Twitter.

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