LVMAC News

Speaker:  Ann Friedenheim, Clinical Supervisor for Confront Services, Treatment Trends, Inc. spoke about a new program to be launched by Treatment Trends and called, “Supporting the Homefront: Educational Footing for Families of Veterans and Active Duty Men and Women.”

After three years of planning and effort, Veterans Sanctuary – a program for veterans with co-occurring disorders (primarily PTSD and drug or alcohol addiction) – is finally open and receiving patient clients. While Treatment Trends’ first focus was on the veteran, discussions had occurred on the disorders’ effects on the family and on how best to make that family a support system for that veteran in his recovery.  Additional discussions brought them to the realization that they should offer assistance to any family of a deployed/deploying service member or recently returned veteran – whether or not enrolled in Veterans Sanctuary because “… families in the Reserve Components are more isolated than their Active Component families and resources provided by the Department of Defense resources more limited.”  The end result was Confront Services taking the lead to create a program to cope with the problems identified.

Ms. Friedenheim went on to point out that a lot times children do not get the attention they need during deployment because financial and emotional strains on the adults frequently get first priority.  School systems often see the resulting problems before the parents. Therefore, “Supporting the Homefront …” was created to apply to both adults and children.

The basic structure of the program is ten weekly, open sessions of about one-and-half hours using groups divided by age (adult, adolescent, pre-adolescent) meant to address the educational and information and referral needs of the groups.  This psycho-educational program (it is not a therapy program) is intended to educate the families, as opposed to the veteran, to give them “a context for their own experiences.”  Basically, the program will cover the following topics:

  1. Gaining an understanding of PTSD
  2. Kids are egocentric and need to be unburdened;
  3. Developing constructive coping skills, as opposed to damaging ones
  4. Managing feelings to work against emotional numbing and the family shutting down.  Not to do so results in children having the feeling the family is withdrawing from them and does not care about them – leading to psychological problems that could have been prevented.
  5. The importance of spirituality in getting one through difficult times
  6. Conflict resolution
  7. Domestic violence
  8. Mental strength building and resiliency

Ms. Friedenheim thanked LVMAC for its starter grant and expects the program to be up and running by September.  Importantly, she asked for its assistance in spreading the word about the program into the community.  She recognized “… this is a difficult market audience to reach and it is hard for people to ask for help.”   Therefore, there is an element of risk to having this program succeed.  Nevertheless, the effort must be made. “Our community has a responsibility to try …” [to improve on the present situation].

General:  At the last Veterans Affairs Committee meeting, it was decided to work these programs in 2012:

  • Our employment program (JOVE)
  • Scholarship Program
  • Homelessness Initiatives which include support to Victory House and Lehigh County Conference of Churches
  • Mental Health Initiatives which include a VA Vet Center and support of Vet Sanctuary
  • Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing
  • Family Unit Maintenance Initiatives
  • Our visitation program
  • A renewed drive for a State Dept. of Veterans Affairs
  • A Veterans Diversion Courts initiative

It also recommended that the Council create its Community Educational Outreach Committee now.

The committee, as of 8 July, has committed all the funds allocated to it ($32,500) for this fiscal year except for about $600.

Scholarship Program:  Awaiting a final report with details, but 9 awards are to be made for a total of $5,000.  We will be requiring a detailed review to see where we will be taking this program in the future.

Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing:  From 24-26 June, 4 veterans with 4 instructors were put up by – all expenses paid – by Fred Peifer at his Featherbed Bed and Breakfast in Jamison City/Benton, PA for fishing at Fishing Creek.  The local sportsmen club stocked the trout, supplied expert guides and an afternoon picnic for this event.  We need to acknowledge their efforts.

Homelessness:  We gave a grant of up to $8,000 to Lehigh County Conference of Churches towards veterans in their Permanent Employment Program.  There is a string attached to encourage attention to veterans – no veterans, no funds. For the future, Pat DiLuzio of Victory House has agreed to chair the Homelessness subcommittee.

Veterans Sanctuary:  Opened for business on 11 July and received their first customers.  Finally, the facility is operational.  They have received their first client.

Military Support:  Hopefully we can report by next meeting progress on the PTSD Booklet that we had to lay aside due to conflicting requirements.  We are awaiting a report from Dick Moore about setting up a Military Family Picnic.  We provided a performance grant of $8,000 to Treatment Trends, Inc. for its “Supporting the Homefront” family, psycho-educational project, the program the speaker was discussing.

We wish to know those VFW chapters who have used the Unmet Needs program locally.  Also have inquired of the local Red Cross if they are using it.

Operation JOVE:  Dave Newton is forming his team and the Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee will be talking with him in August about structuring the program for a restart.

HOCVA (Healthcare in Our Community with the VA):  The CEO of Lehigh Valley Hospital Network will be talking to us in October here at the Council on the “Downstream Health Effects of War.”  Hopefully, he will also be reporting on concrete actions his network is taking to provide support to our military veterans.  The VA needs to make greater use of the community medical establishment.

Local Fundraising:  Ashly Moyer 5K Race for Freedom is scheduled for 3 September.  Flyers and posters were distributed and members were asked to distribute and post them.  For more information, go to www.5kraceforfreedom.org or go to our blog site, lvmac.wordpress.com.  SPONSORS ARE NEEDED.

Veterans Diversion Courts:  We attended a Philadelphia meeting of their Veterans Forensic Task Force on 30 June where veterans diversion courts were discussed at length.  Judge Robert Russell, of Buffalo NY, creator of the first Veterans Court and his Mentor Coordinator, Jack O’Connor, both spoke. It was an eye opener of a meeting.  One lesson learned:  mentors need training and while they need to work with the judicial system it must be made clear they are a separate entity from it (they are not probation officers or counselors).  Buffalo essentially created a 501(c)(3) organization to provide the service.  Whether going to that extent (incorporating) is another matter.  The important point is that the relationship is between the veteran and the mentor – and the mentor cannot be an agent for a judge, public defender, prosecutor in any shape or form for a mentor program to work.  Trust is trust is the foundation of the program and the real or perceived notion of conflict of interest must be avoided…

What was not discussed and of concern to us, is training for crisis intervention by first responders … as has occurred in Philadelphia. We will get active on this initiative at the end of the year.

Governmental Affairs:  We expect our newly submitted bill for a Department of Veterans Affairs to be introduced in the summer or fall of this year.  We are awaiting word if Rep. Barrar, Chair of the House veterans affairs and emergency preparedness committee, would like to sponsor it.  Sen. Browne has already agreed to the senate version.  INCIDENTALLY, Rep. Barrar will speak to us in September at the Council Meeting.

Penn State Study:  Meanwhile, Penn State is conducting an “inventory, comparison, and analysis of services provided by County Veteran Affairs” for the Center for Rural Pennsylvania.  The report is due out in the Spring of 2012.

The study team will collect and examine characteristics from each County Veteran Affairs Office and explore how satisfied veterans are regarding the services they are receiving. In addition, in-depth interviews will be held with key stakeholders to explore policy issues, competing interests, and services offered to veterans. The impact of Act 66 (funding of veterans organizations to provide service officers) will also be explored.

Expected outcomes include an analysis of the operating budgets and staffing of County Veterans Affairs Offices, a comparison of services offered and service utilization by county compared to potential demand, comparisons of service provision by rural and urban counties, and findings on satisfaction levels and knowledge of benefits by veterans regarding the services they are receiving. Public policy implications and relevant recommendations will be addressed.

State Budget approved:  Nothing exciting to report as there is little real impact on Veterans Affairs except to say state veterans homes got an $11.3M increase for operations from previous $ 82 million or so and about $1M less than expected.  That might seem quite a lot but it probably covers a severe deficit in federal funds recovery the DMVA had originally projected but needed to complete to complete needed renovation projects in addition to maintaining staffing levels.

VA News: See LVMAC Tidbits, 20 July 2011.

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 20 July 2011

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