Lieutenant Governor Dianne Primavera delivers a speech during the inauguration of governor-elect Jared Polis on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019 in Denver.

Colorado officials announced a new mental health program Thursday that will connect veterans in distress with follow-up support from fellow veterans.

The free program, offered via Colorado Crisis Services, will work with hospitals statewide to identify veterans who have experienced a mental health and/or substance abuse crisis involving thoughts of suicide and allow them the option of being paired with a trained support specialist who has also served, according to a Thursday news release from the Colorado Department of Human Services.

The program recognizes the "intrinsic connection between physical and mental health," said Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera, who joined Colorado's U.S. Rep. Jason Crow, an Aurora Democrat, and Maj. Gen. Michael Loh, adjutant general of the Colorado National Guard, and others at a virtual press conference announcing the program's launch Thursday morning.

The new program will tailor services to veterans, who often put their personal needs on the back burner to serve others, Primavera said.

"Explaining or rehashing trauma can be exhausting," but such efforts will be less necessary when paired with a veteran support specialist, the former lawmaker said.

The program is a step in shifting the tide from a "warrior culture" that encourages veterans "to put aside personal feelings for betterment of unit and mission" to one in which seeking help is seen as a sign of strength, said Crow, a combat veteran.

Those in crisis can call Colorado Crisis Services toll-free at 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255 for free, confidential, 24/7 counseling support.

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