Contact: Karl Hertz
In an effort to provide support to those recently laid off in the coal sector, as well as the oil and gas industry, Memorial Hospital of Converse County hosted a meeting of Douglas community leaders on April 4. From law enforcement and City government representatives to mental health professionals, the community leaders spent almost two hours identifying areas where support could be provided to those who were laid off.
"We thought we needed a group of people talking about this from the community level," said Karl Hertz, assistant hospital administrator at Memorial Hospital. "We want to have solutions for those impacted by layoffs."
With more than 235 employees at Peabody Energy's North Antelope Rochelle Mine and roughly the same number at Arch Coal's Black Thunder Mine laid off at the end of March, the meeting focused on what services those families impacted by the layoffs might need in the coming months.
"It's a community issue, and it would be good to have a community response," said Frank Wiederrecht, Memorial Hospital chief culture officer.
The meeting identified two areas where immediate support is necessary – financial advice and behavioral health. As folks grapple with how to pay their bills and prioritize payments, financial counseling services were identified as a must-have. Also, concerns about mental health needs and the onset of depression as families wade through the various challenges that accompany unemployment, having access to mental health care and getting the word out about those services was deemed essential to meeting the needs of the impacted families.
"This is how you would respond to a disaster," said Cristy Cobb, Memorial Hospital chief nursing officer. "We're coming together to…help people in need."
CANDO's Cindy Porter also addressed the idea of applying for grants established by the Obama administration to help communities impacted by layoffs in the coal regions. Several Wyoming economic development organizations are in the process of applying for a grant through the $65.8 million POWER Initiative that was originally designated for the Appalachian coal communities that have been greatly impacted by layoffs in the last 10 years.
"We are looking at putting a proposal together to get our share of what's needed," Porter said.
Porter asked attendees to create a wish list of items that various organizations and community service providers would need in the coming months to support the community and individuals that will feel the impacts of the layoffs.
As the group works to establish a list of resources and develop additional services for those impacted by the layoffs, they said they will look to the coal sector itself by reaching out to the coal companies that have a presence in Converse County as well.
The discussion will continue April 15 at the Eastern Wyoming College at 1 p.m. The meeting is open to the public. For more information or media inquiries contact Karl Hertz at Memorial Hospital of Converse County by phone 307-358-1417.