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Community Leaders Continue Discussion on Helping Those Laid Off

As hundreds of local residents face unemployment issues after recent coal mine layoffs, community leaders continue to discuss various ways community entities can support and provide resources for those now unemployed in the coal, oil and other energy sectors. The conversation, which originally began on April 4 and continued on April 15, was launched by Memorial Hospital of Converse County in light of the almost 500 people laid off at the end of March by Peabody Energy and Arch Coal.

Memorial Hospital of Converse County is offering a number of additional resources, including a class this Spring to help people enroll in health insurance exchanges and determining what their insurance options may be.

"We were thinking that maybe this is a time we can give back to the community," said Ryan Smith, CEO of Memorial Hospital of Converse County. "Focusing on our portion of Acute Care, if someone loses insurance we want to be able to help them get assistance. We have an insurance navigator training set up for later in the Spring. The class is at no co6-4st for those in the community interested in attending."

Further financial training in the form of Ramsey Academy will be offered at a date to be determined via Memorial Hospital. This as well will be at no cost to participants. The Dave Ramsey series is reported to have been a tremendous help to those who have adopted its tenants and is focused on long term financial health for participants. Further financial counseling assistance for help in the short term is being investigated currently.

Much of the discussion also focused on the trickledown effect of the layoffs. Already King's Portion, a local food bank distribution center, is providing food to roughly 30 families, some of whom were impacted by the layoffs and more children are being added to the Blessings in a Backpack program. In light of the expected additional need, a food collection drive is planned for May 16 at Jackalope Square to allow people to donate food that will go to families impacted by the layoffs.

Despite the hundreds of layoffs that have already occurred, some voiced concerns at the meetings that there would be additional layoffs later this summer and more people in need of a variety of services.

In addressing behavioral health concerns, Solutions for Life in Douglas is working to add an additional therapist to its staff to assist those who may be struggling emotionally and with stresses increased by the layoffs. Suicide Prevention Training may also be offered in the coming weeks in a partnership with Memorial Hospital of Converse County and Solutions for Life.

Both the City of Douglas and Memorial Hospital of Converse County will be adding a list of local resources to their websites in order to provide families with information on everything from financial assistance to behavioral health resources. These lists once compiled will be dispersed throughout the county via social media, press release, community partners, and other venues to get the word out to those in need assistance.

Another meeting is scheduled for 1 p.m. May 13 at the Eastern Wyoming College campus in Douglas.