Newsletter: Oregon Community Circles of Support for Veterans's Families
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Lucy
Lucy Zammarelli, Director of Mental Health Services and Darcy Woodke, Family/Military Specialist.

Willamette Family recently received a collaborative grant from the National Center on Family Homelessness for an exciting new project called the "Community Circles of Support for Veterans' Families." The grant is funded by Wal-Mart through the National Center, and Eugene was chosen for the project because of the wonderful collaboration Willamette Family has with military services in the community. Darcy Woodke, Family Assistance Specialist with the Oregon National Guard's Emerald Valley Center, is participating in the project. The project will address the unmet needs in the central Willamette Valley for services to family members of military veterans or those currently active in military units.

Lucy Zammarelli, Director of Mental Health Services and Darcy Woodke, Family/Military Specialist.
Our region has approximately 75,300 veterans (statistics from the ODVA, 9/30/08). On the active duty side, the Oregon National Guard has deployed approximately 400 soldiers from Lane County and approximately 3,000 from the whole state (ORNG PA data, April 2009), along with the reserve Navy, Marines, and active duty Army who are on an overseas deployment rotation as well. Most of these personnel will be involved in the OEF/OIF Middle East Conflicts, leaving many families in the difficult position of having a family member overseas and in danger.

In the community there is a strong support network for service members, including the ONG Reintegration Team, the Vet Center, and the Veterans Administration Services. However, for the families, helpful services are more difficult to find. Families state a need for social and clinical services including family counseling and mental health, along with community education. There is a high need among families for community support, education and responsiveness to their needs. This is the basis for the Willamette Family project, which will target families in several ways with several levels of services:

· Basic education classes will focus on healthy coping skills, addressing family stress, tending to the developmental needs of children, and positive family management, as well as special issues for families with deployed service members. Crisis response services for family members with referrals to appropriate resources will also be offered as a part of these classes for issues such as emergency housing and food, healthy adolescent behavior, debt management, substance abuse, and mental illness.
· A network of peer support is also planned, with experienced family members available to provide a compassionate listener to those in need. The peer support services will focus on weekly "Coffee Hours" with a drop-in approach, and casual relationships will be nurtured to ensure that family members are able to discuss issues that affect them in an open and non-judgmental environment. Child care will be provided.
· The most intensive level of services will be offered under a clinical model, with family members offered individual and group counseling for personal and family issues requiring a high level of therapeutic care. Therapists for these services will be trained and experienced in working with military families, and will be familiar with the current Middle East conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and the enormous stress they present to National Guard and Reserve families. This level of service will be targeted toward family members suffering with high levels of stress and in need of focused therapy to overcome their issues and resolve the problems that prevent them from leading healthy lives.

One additional component of the program is also planned: open community education to help inform the county service providers, educators and citizens about the stresses and needs of military families and families of veterans. This education program will be individualized to the targeted audiences. It will acquaint the community with information helpful for understanding the stressors created by the current conflicts as well as past conflicts and supportive ways to respond to the needs of military families. Plans for providing training to local school systems, medical and mental health providers, policy makers, and the general community are planned.

For more information about this project, contact Lucy Zammarelli, MA, Willamette Family's Director of Mental Health Services: (541) 343-2993; eMail: lucyz@wfts.org. Darcy C. Woodke, Family/Military Specialist, 162 IN Regiment Readiness Center, Springfield, OR: (541) 736-4601.

 

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