An innovative program to identify and treat combat veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – but who have not sought treatment – has been started by U.S.VETS, the nation’s largest nonprofit devoted to providing housing and other services to homeless and at-risk veterans.
“No one has ever done anything like this before.”
Nearly twenty percent of all veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD, but only 40 percent seek treatment for the condition, which is a precursor for a host of serious problems, including depression, anxiety, isolation, anger management, substance abuse, and homelessness.
“Our goal is to get them early – before the trouble begins,” said Stephen Peck, president and CEO of U.S.VETS. “No one has ever done anything like this before.”
There are currently more than 2,000 veterans staying in 11 U.S.VETS sites across the country. The organization provides housing and a wide array of coordinated programs to support the efforts of veterans working to reintegrate into the civilian community.
The new PTSD outreach program, which will be staffed and further developed in January 2011, is funded by grants by the Weingart and UniHealth Foundations. The program will initially be run out of the U.S.VETS site in Long Beach and concentrate on outreach to veterans attending community colleges, including Long Beach City College, Santa Monica Community College and Los Angeles Community College.
The new program will also have a presence at the Los Alamitos Joint Force Reserve Training Center in partnership with the Yellow Ribbon Campaign. The collaboration is a natural extension of U.S.VETS Veterans Reentry Project, a specific residential program for male veterans recently returning from Iraq and Afghanistan diagnosed with PTSD.
Peck, a Marine combat veteran who served in Vietnam, said the program could easily be expanded if it proves successful.
“So many of my fellow Vietnam vets had PTSD for years without knowing it and the result was a life of instability, substance abuse, broken families and homelessness,” said Peck. “We don’t want this to happen again with these young vets, so if we can expand this program successfully, we’ll be saving thousands of lives and families.”