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SUPPORTING OUR TROOPS AND THEIR FAMILIES!

This year, I co-sponsored several bills related to the military. One of these bills expands mental health access for our veterans and their families, and another is vital to securing additional funding for our school districts to address increased enrollment resulting from the expansion of Ft. Carson. Both bills passed with strong bi-partisan support and both have been signed by the governor.SENATE BILL 146: PILOT PROGRAM TO PROVIDE MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES TO FAMLIESMost of us are aware that mental health services may be necessary for the returning solider of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom and their family members. Colorado Springs is home to a high percentage of combat veterans from Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom and their families will benefit from the new provisions in SB 146.SB 146 establishes a 3-year pilot program for families of recently discharged veterans to receive mental health services with providers in the Colorado Springs area. The community mental health centers of Colorado Springs will provide education, referral and treatment to families of recently discharged veterans.Families that receive these services will only be required to make a co-payment not exceeding $20 per month. The Department of Human Services will assist in paying for a full range of mental health services needed by the family members. If the family has insurance coverage, they will be required to utilize their own insurance prior to using the pilot program dollars.HOUSE BILL 1232: AID FOR SCHOOL DISTRICTS WITH STUDENT DEPENDENTS OF THE MILITARYTypically, school districts are funded by the total number of students who are enrolled on Oct. 1 of each year. Fountain and Widefield School districts may see a significant increase in students after this October count. Currently, they would not receive funding for serving these additional students. HB1232 allows for a “second count” day in February for school districts with a high registration of military students. Based on the increased number of students enrolled since Oct. 1, a funding adjustment to reflect the current impacts of military personnel relocation can be requested.Over the next five years, 11,000 military personnel with 6,000 children are expected to relocate to Fort Carson. School districts in our area are anticipating an annual growth of 1,200 students. For school districts near Fort Carson, the per-pupil state funding amount is estimated at $6,355 in fiscal year 2007-2008, and $6,577 in FY 2008-2009.Under HB 1232, if a district enrollment increases by 400 students between October and February, the supplementary funding amounts would be $1,271,000 in FY 2007-2008 and $1,314,400 in FY 2008-2009. School districts such as Fountain and Widefield will desperately need these additional dollars!Call me with any questions, comments or concerns at 719-238-5600 or by e-mail at MarshaLooper@hughes.net.

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