The Cohen Veterans Network, which runs mental health clinics across the country, has arrived in Colorado with its pledge that therapists will see those who have served since 9/11 and their families within a week of initial screening.
Staff at the non-profit founded by billionaire investor and philanthropist Steven A. Cohen also say anyone who is in crisis when he or she arrives at one of its clinics will get a same-day appointment.
“That’s a commitment we’re making,” Cohen Veterans Network CEO Anthony Hassan said at the May 14 ribbon-cutting ceremony near Denver for the newest Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic, a collaboration with the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.“We’re able to do this because of Mr. Cohen’s generosity.”
The Cohen Veterans Network spent $9.8 million on its newest clinic, located in a low-rise office building in the Denver suburb of Greenwood Village. The clinic’s walls are decorated with artwork by veterans and consultation rooms offer soothing views of a fountain and courtyard.
Hassan, an Army and Air Force veteran, said technology plays a part in fast service, allowing Cohen clinics to track providers’ caseloads and make tweaks, including bringing on more help when needed.
“We really focus on data to help us manage those efficiencies,” he said.
Cohen clinics are in California, Florida, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Washington as well as Colorado. The network welcomes all post 9/11 veterans, including those who served with the National Guard, whatever their discharge status. Those who can’t pay or don’t have insurance are treated without charge.
Hassan said he hopes to expand quickly in Colorado and neighboring states. The Colorado facility has a telehealth program, in which video counseling is provided via computer and even smartphone, to help therapists reach rural areas. Cohen clinics began incorporating telehealth only six months ago, Hassan said.
Steven Cohen, pledging $275 million over five years for 25 clinics, began opening the facilities in 2016. The Department of Veterans Affairs was already embroiled in a scandal over long wait times that has continued.
The Cohen network focuses only on men and women who have served since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. The VA, tasked with serving veterans from all eras, estimates that as of Sept. 30, 2017 that included more than 600,000 from World War II, more than 1 million from Korea, more than 6 million from Vietnam, more than 4 million who served in the Gulf before 9/11 and another 4 million who have served since 9/11.
The Cohen network, which has seen a total of some 6,000 veterans and family members at its clinics, provides only mental health programs. The VA runs a network of full-service hospitals as well as clinics.
U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado spoke at the opening ceremony for the Cohen near Denver.
"This is a clinic that can step forward and help," Coffman said.
Afterward, the congressman brushed off a suggestion that Cohen’s spending ability is a key advantage. Coffman said the VA’s budget has been “dramatically” increased in a short time.
“I don’t think that (funding) is the problem right now,” said Coffman, a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee and a combat veteran. “It’s where we put the money that’s the issue.”
At Cohen, the focus is on working with partners that include the VA to serve veterans.
“We’re not here to replace the VA, but really to fill a gap of services,” said Gillian Kaag, who directs Cohen’s Colorado clinic. “We’re here to … work through the barriers to care.”