Vet's View (May 2023)

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It's the one-year anniversary of Vet's View! We are honored to use this space to highlight WestCare's Veteran Services and to prompt discussion and interest in Veteran support initiatives and efforts nationwide Thank you for reading and continuing to find avenues to assist our Veterans!

At WestCare, we're committed to uplifting and honoring each Veteran's patriotism and love of country At the same time, we know that some of our Vets suffer from the invisible wounds of war but don't receive proper treatment June is National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Month and in this quarter's issue of Vet's View, we're focusing on PTSD It is our aim in this issue to raise awareness about PTSD: to help reduce the stigma, to emphasize the fact that effective PTSD treatments are available, and to highlight WestCare's support services for Vets. We'll spotlight the complex link between homelessness and PTSD while looking at the mission of San Francisco's Swords to Plowshares Veteran initiatives

While it's impossible to fully cover all aspects of PTSD in a short publication like Vet's View, there are a number of resources available to answer questions you may have:

VA's National Center for PTSD

SAMHSA's 2022 PTSD Awareness blog

Please commit to helping us remove the stigma associated with mental health challenges so that more Vets receive the care they need






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Did you know that in 2010, the U.S. Senate declared June 27 National PTSD Awareness Day, and in 2014, it designated June as National PTSD Awareness Month? This was a welcome move by Swords to Plowshares, a Veterans organization that provides job training, housing and benefits advocacy to low-income and homeless Veterans in San Francisco and Oakland.

Swords to Plowshares operates drop-in centers for Veterans requiring emergency services and PTSD support groups The organization was founded in 1974 by six Veterans who had become concerned that the US Department of Veterans Affairs was not properly addressing the needs of returning Vietnam Veterans and began to raise awareness of and advocate for Veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.

Recognizing the over-representation of Veterans in San Francisco’s homeless population, Swords to Plowshares began a transitional housing program in the late 80s with the addition of emergency housing, mental health treatment, and social service referrals through the first "drop-in" center in downtown San Francisco In 2000, Swords to Plowshares leased two decommissioned military barracks in the San Francisco Presidio, known as "The Veterans Academy." This permanent supportive housing facility, the first of its kind to serve as a national model, offers a variety of supportive services and residential programs With the addition of 5 more housing facilities scattered around San Francisco, Swords to Plowshares now provide a permanent home to over 500 previously homeless and low-income Veterans.

In recognition of June’s PTSD Awareness Month, WestCare celebrates Swords to Plowshares for their long history of helping Veterans heal the visible and invisible wounds of war


Supportive Services

PTSD is not a newly recognized mental health condition In fact, it dates to 50 B.C. when it was described in a poem by Hippocrates. PTSD started gaining more attention after the medieval wars between England and France when many people, civilians and soldiers alike, reported experiencing symptoms This continued throughout World War I and World War II, with PTSD being named as ‘Shell Shock’ and ‘Battle Fatigue’ respectively It was during the 1970s and the Vietnam War that the disorder was renamed PTSD

Earlier treatments resorted to electric shock therapy and other painful options Today, we have a better understanding of the complex ways in which the human mind and body work to keep us alive and going. We also have much more effective treatments like group therapy, counseling, and antidepressants We also understand that people need care, attention and love in addition to therapeutic support

One such support program is Veterans Treatment Court, (VTC) which was created in 2008 by Judge Robert Russell when he noticed an incline of Veterans whose cases shared a theme: drug addiction and mental illness Today, the VTC model has been adopted by most states. While an alternative solution to jail or prison time, there are still judge’s orders with non-negotiables such as being assigned a Veteran mentor, drug testing, and showing up to PTSD therapy sessions

WestCare GulfCoast-Florida's Lonnie Winbush, who served as a Marine for over 15 years, now recruits Veteran mentors for the Pinellas County, Florida VTC: “I think the single most important issue for the Veteran is to have the treatment be treated through and by Veterans because only a Veteran would know how a Veteran thinks and feels. Due to him or her being there once before themselves”.

WestCare salutes Lonnie and all the VTC mentors he recruits for leaving no Veteran behind

GPD Case Management

There is a complex link between homelessness and PTSD The idea that PTSD alone causes homelessness naively focuses on the individual rather than on the institutions perpetuating housing insecurity As a result, the illusory division between the “mentally ill homeless” and the “non-mentally ill homeless” casts the former as more deserving of intervention and services and the latter as seemingly “unworthy” of support

While there is no causal relationship between PTSD and homelessness, those who suffer from housing insecurity struggle significantly - both psychologically and emotionally The constellation of subsistence living, family breakdown, and poor self-esteem all contribute to a downward psychological cycle Left untreated, these stressors can put people at risk for future traumatic events

As part of its ongoing efforts to prevent and end Veteran homelessness, the Department of Veterans Affairs is investing through its Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem Program (GPD) in organizations like WestCare who understand that formerly homeless Veterans might need help accessing resources to maintain their independence and housing stability WestCare California, WestCare Iowa/Family Alliances for Veterans of America, and WestCare Oregon/VETcare Oregon recently applied for funding to hire case managers who will help Veterans:

Search for, obtain, and successfully transition to permanent housing; Troubleshoot challenges and barriers to maintaining permanent housing; and Connect with services to address issues such as poor credit history, rent arrears, and legal issues

These case managers will help ensure that once Veterans become housed, they get the resources they need to stay housed. The effort is built upon the evidence-based Housing First approach, which prioritizes getting a Veteran into housing and provides the Veteran with the wraparound support they need to stay housed including health care, job training, legal and education assistance, and more

Uplifting the Human Spirit
Lonnie with Mentor Carri Robbins (Navy Veteran)

WestCare California's San Joaquin Valley Veterans (SJVV) program treats Veterans with honor and dignity and empowers them to change their lives one simple step at a time With transitional living facilities for men and women - with or without children - and drop-in locations in Fresno, Hanford, Merced, and Stockton offering case management, housing services, advocacy, job assistance, supportive services, and referrals, SJVV makes it their mission to give back to those who have already given so much SJVV, like every WestCare California program, is part of a continuum of person-centered and trauma-informed care

Connect with WestCare Foundation to follow our journey across 16 states, 4 U.S. territories, and 2 republics.

WestCare @westcare @westcarefoundation

Uplifting the Human Spirit
WestCare salutes San Joaquin Valley Veterans for its excellence.
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