The members of the Veteran panel discussion share their experience returning home after combat deployment.
On June 2, more than 30 local criminal justice, law enforcement and mental health professionals attended a Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO) Conference, hosted by the Erie VA Medical Center Behavioral Health Clinic, to learn about the special issues returning Veterans and combat Veterans of any era face. The goal of this conference was to ensure Veterans who are at risk of or are currently involved in the criminal justice system receive the proper treatment and behavioral health care they deserve.
“The interest we saw during the conference further illustrates the need for education about what unique issues Veterans face,” said Kathy Mahood, Erie VA Behavioral Health Program Leader. “Our hope was to educate those who work directly with Veterans involved in the criminal justice system so they have a firm understanding of the unique issues Veterans face, the supportive services available to Veterans, and the role everyone in attendance plays in helping Veterans recover.”
The tone of the Veterans Justice Outreach Conference was set from the beginning as a US Marine who served in Iraq ushered in the conference by playing America the Beautiful on the bagpipes. Erie VA employees, mental health professionals, criminal justice professionals and others community partners stood together with one purpose: to serve Veterans.
During the conference, behavioral health specialists gave presentations on the special issues facing Veterans and on programs we offer to combat these issues. Topics included:
- Programs for justice-involved Veterans
- Veterans justice outreach and homelessness
- Posttraumatic Stress Disorder & Traumatic Brain Injury
- De-escalation techniques for law enforcement
- Brief overview on Erie VA Behavioral Health services including suicide prevention, substance abuse and health care for homeless
The real highlight of the conference was the panel discussion when three Veterans – a WWII prisoner of war Veteran, one Vietnam Veteran and one Iraqi Veteran – shared their experience returning home after combat deployment.
“Knowing these issues is one thing, but understanding the issues is another matter,” said Mahood. “The panel discussion really brought these issues home with everyone in attendance. Each Veteran on the panel shared openly about their struggles with PTSD and other long-term effects that resulted from serving their country.”
Erie VA’s Veterans Justice Outreach Program acts as a liaison with local justice system partners and works directly with Veterans who are involved in local courts and jails to provide case management services and, most importantly, to ensure each Veteran receives the care and treatment they need to recover. By building community partnerships during this conference, we are one step closer to providing justice for Veterans.
For more information about the Erie VA’s Veterans Justice Outreach Program, please contact Terry Yeager, Veterans Justice Outreach Coordinator and Addictions Counselor at 814-860-2038. Click here to download a copy of the materials presented.