US Sen. Michael Bennet to host town hall in Steamboat Springs on Friday |

US Sen. Michael Bennet to host town hall in Steamboat Springs on Friday

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet

— Northwest Colorado residents will have the ear of U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet on Friday when he hosts a town hall in Steamboat Springs.

The Democratic senator from Colorado is expected to talk with residents about a wide range of issues, including the Farm Bill, forest health and the upcoming wildfire season.

The forum starts at 12:30 p.m. in the Colorado Mountain College auditorium.

"We’re very excited to have him here," Routt County Democratic Party Chairwoman Catherine Carson said Wednesday after the trip was confirmed. "He’s been a leader in working across the aisle in Washington and finding common-sense solutions for a lot of issues."

Steamboat Springs rancher and Vietnam-era veteran Jim Stanko said he might ask the senator about the ongoing efforts to make it easier for veterans in rural areas like Northwest Colorado to access mental health services.

Currently, veterans in Steamboat must travel to a telehealth clinic in Craig or the Veterans Affairs hospital in Grand Junction for those services.

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"One of the problems we have is if (a veteran) has mental health problems or suicidal thoughts, we’re pretty isolated, and if they need help right away, they’re not going to go to Grand Junction right away," he said.

Late last month, Bennet sent VA Secretary Eric Shineski a letter asking whether he had considered allowing veterans in some rural areas of Colorado to use non-VA health care facilities.

Stanko said he plans to meet with Bennet’s staff early next week in Craig to further discuss that option.

"This is a great idea, and it’s been around a long time," Stanko said.

His wife, Jo Stanko, said she was eager to hear the senator discuss the Farm Bill, which funds major agricultural programs that range from food stamps to technical assistance for farmers and ranchers.

She added that she also has concerns about a potential increase in grazing fees for ranchers.

Bennet was last in Routt County in September 2011 to talk with Hayden residents about the Farm Bill.

Residents who plan to attend Friday’s town hall are encouraged to RSVP here.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email

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