Written by: Marcela Rojas
A program meant to help veterans returning home deal with the mental and physical struggles of war is expected to roll out in Westchester and Rockland counties in the coming months.
The PFC Joseph Dwyer Peer-to-Peer Veterans Counseling Program by and for veterans working through the effects of post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury has experienced successes in the four New York counties where it launched in the past year.
State Sens. Greg Ball and David Carlucci recently announced that funding for the program has been secured in seven additional counties across the state.
Funding was secured through the state Office of Mental Health with $2.3 million allocated to the program in the 2013-14 state budget, according to Carlucci’s office.
Putnam, Rockland and Westchester counties will each receive $185,000 to fund the program named after the Iraq war veteran who died in 2008 of a drug overdose following struggles with PTSD.
“I know for myself I waited 30 years after Vietnam before going to the VA because I thought I could take care of it myself,” said Karl Rohde, director of the Putnam County Veterans Service Agency. “If we can get veterans in sooner and anticipate problems before it becomes a last resort and they try to harm themselves, it would help.”
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that PTSD afflicts 31 percent of Vietnam veterans, 10 percent of Desert Storm veterans, 20 percent of Iraqi war veterans and 11 percent of Afghanistan war veterans.
Ball’s office held an informational meeting Thursday in Carmel with officials from Putnam and Westchester counties and representatives from the Suffolk County Veterans Service Agency.
Suffolk was among the first counties to initiate the peer-to-peer program.
Thomas Ronayne, Suffolk’s veterans agency director, explained their program, how confidentiality is held in the highest regard and that meetings are not held in institutional settings.
“At its core is veterans helping veterans,” Ronayne said. “Talking to someone who has seen what you have seen is helpful.”
Also on hand was Suffolk’s peer-to-peer program coordinator, Timothy Strobel, who said that following his return from Iraq, he was hospitalized for PTSD for three months.
The disorder, he stressed, is not about what’s wrong with the person but what has happened to them.
“This program is truly making a difference in people’s lives,” Strobel said. (ARTICLE)