‘VA Serves All Who Serve’ — Help is Available at Pride Fest
Many military personnel and veterans face difficult issues such as post traumatic stress disorder and suicide.
Wyoming already has the nation's highest suicide rate.
While veterans compose a substantial minority in the state, they're still a minority.
Those active members of the service and veterans who are LBGTQ+ are even a smaller minority and their physical and mental health risks are even higher, said Kayla Stevens, a clinical social worker with the Veterans Administration Health Center in Sheridan.
Stevens' booth is among many vendors at the annual Pride Fest happening at the David Street Station in downtown Casper from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. today, Saturday.
She said she has taken a special interest in suicide prevention, and applies that experience to her job.
Besides issues many veterans face, LGBTQ+ veterans also face the stigma from others about their identity and the stigma of avoiding seeking help for suicide, she said.
Gay veterans are still recovering from the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" era that started in the 1990s, Stevens said.
The VA offers counseling, help with assigning gender pronouns and providing prosthetics for veterans who are transitioning, she said.
"It's about providing care," Stevens said.
The nonprofit Casper Pride sponsors the annual Pride Fest.
Casper Pride Executive Director Mallory Pollock said about 50 vendors are at the event.
Vendors include those selling all sorts of rainbow/pride-colored stickers, flags, and bling.
A lot of social service agencies and nonprofits were represented, too, including the Community Action Partnership, Wellspring Health Access, Mercer Resource Center, Natrona County Suicide Prevention Task Force, several churches, the Casper-Natrona County Health Department, and even a mobile clinic operated by Wyoming Cancer Resources Health Care for the Homeless.
This marks the third year for the mobile clinic to join Pride Fest, said Shannon Poste, a medical assistant.
This year, the mobile clinic is offering free skin cancer exams for anyone who wants them, Poste said. The clinic is on site in front of The Lyric, 230 W. Yellowstone Highway.
Besides the vendors, Pollock said Pride Fest features music, food truck, people dressed rabbit costumes, and people wearing pride flags around their shoulders.
"We're happy together everywhere and strengthen our community," Pollock said.
Visit Casper Pride's website for more information about Pride Fest and related events this weekend.