Posts Taged mental-health

Supportive Housing: Christian’s Success Story

When Christian arrived at Endeavors™’ Fairweather Family Lodge, Child Protective Services was involved with her children and she was in drug court due to a drug addiction.

She also had no bank account, a low credit score, a broken lease, six traffic warrants, owed money to the city, and had defaulted on loans.

Due to drug use, Christian had severe damage to her teeth and gums and invisible wounds from past trauma and untreated depression.

Upon arriving to the Fairweather Family Lodge, Christian had access to mental and dental healthcare a had a chance to re-bond with her children.

The Fairweather Family Lodge environment offered the family a sense of of safety and security, enabling them to heal from past trauma from domestic violence.

Christian says the shelter, support, and material help supported her in learning how to be a parent and enabled her to focus on being a mom. Part of that support was the group environment. By meeting others moms and children who had survived a situation like hers, Christian was able to see the road to improvement and the life she wanted.

“Addiction isolated me and FFL linked me with other families who were walking in my same shoes.”

Christian received care to fix her teeth and gums. She opened a new bank account, paid off all debts, and repaired her credit score. She was also able to begin saving and paying back her loans.

When Christian and her children left the Fairweather Family Lodge, they left to a home that she bought – one of her greatest accomplishments and one that had considered unattainable.

From Christian: 

“[Fairweather Family Lodge] has given me priceless gifts of healing and growth with my children. Together, we have come a long way emotionally and spiritually! A true fresh start from the wreckage of my past; 1,000 pound weight lifted off my shoulders. I have friendships that I didn’t know I needed and will keep all my life!”


Find out more about our Fairweather programs.

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Deployment Stress is a Family Matter

|Jan. 27, 2017|

|San Antonio Express-News|

When a soldier deploys, the burden of that deployment is carried by the family left behind. This can lead to post-deployment stress and secondary PTSD when those troops return.

“We know there is an equivalent to PTSD in children and spouses and this is a situation that carries through every fiber of that family,” Carmen Fies, head of the Center for Military Families at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

The center held a panel Saturday discussing the impact of post-deployment stress on families after more than 15 years of war.

“Post-deployment stress really extends beyond the service member to the spouse and the children left behind,” one of the panelists, Kat Cole of Endeavors™ and the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic, said.

Endeavors™ offers free mental health care to veterans and their dependents. The clinic, operated in partnership with the San Antonio nonprofit Endeavors™, also treats spouses and children exposed to secondhand trauma and works to repair marriages and parent-child relationships.

Veterans almost seem apologetic when they call for help, Cole said. She said she’ll hear them say, “‘I totally understand if there are other veterans who need the help more than me.’”

Spouses and caregivers feel the same way, Cole said. They often feel their spouse is the one who needs help, while they’re on the back burner.

Family members, however, also suffer effects from deployment. Research shows a 24 percent higher rate of depression for wives whose spouse deployed for 11 months or longer. Another study found that almost 37 percent of the wives whose husbands were deployed were diagnosed with at least one mental health disorder.

For children, having a parent who has been for deployed for a total for 19 months is associated with decreased tests scores in school. One study found 33 percent of children between 5 and 12 with deployed parents had a high likelihood of developing social and psychological problems. In a 2011 report to Congress, the Department of Defense found a 19 percent increase in behavioral disorders among military children with a deployed parent.

The stresses are compounded when a service member goes to war and comes back wounded.

Dan Blasini, a panelist at the event and vice president of military affairs at Warm Springs Rehabilitation Hospital of San Antonio, works with veterans who have been wounded in combat.

The service member must learn to cope with their disability, even for common tasks. Family members often want to help with everything right away, but Blasini said he encourages them to step back at first, so the service member can learn their limits.

“The family has to know when to watch, when to help, when they need to intervene for safety reasons,” Blasini said. “That’s the balancing act.”

Fies said there needs to be more community awareness of the challenges facing military families so they can find help.

“The community as a whole needs to be aware of how to interact with military family members in productive ways, to know how to buffer these things,” Fies said.

Cole, a veteran, went through 11 deployments as a family. She said military families can easily get isolated in their communities. She said she sees in San Antonio efforts to see the issue as one affecting the whole family.

“More and more family members are coming out of the woodwork,” Cole said. “They’re thinking, ‘If I can take better care of myself, I can take better care of my family.’”

Read more from J.P. Lawrence
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Free Cohen clinics aim to fill VA’s shortfalls in mental health

The fact the Cohen clinics don’t have strict eligibility rules will enable them to reach an entire population of veterans who are currently being underserved.

|Dec. 1, 2016|

|USA Today|

Elenilson Franco, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety, first sought mental health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs nearly four years ago.

He is still waiting. The VA lost his original paperwork and hasn’t yet approved a new application, he said.

“It’s frustrating,” lamented Franco, 46, who served in Iraq as a U.S. Marine. “I am a veteran. The VA is supposed to be there for me.”

Over the past three years, the sprawling VA system has come under fire from Congress and the media because veterans were waiting too long to see a doctor. Mental health appointments have been particularly difficult, and that can be dangerous for veterans. Studies show up to 20% of soldiers returning from battle in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Now, a new chain of free mental health clinics for vets has opened in five cities across the United States to fill the gap.

The much-needed new treatment is underwritten by an unlikely benefactor: Steven A. Cohen, the former head of a hedge fund that pleaded guilty to insider trading charges in 2013. His $13 billion fortune puts him among the 100 wealthiest individuals in the world, according to Forbes magazine.

Cohen said the catalyst for the clinics was his son, Robert, who served with the U.S. Marine Corps in Afghanistan. He said his son didn’t need counseling when he returned, but many of his friends did.

“I got lucky,” Cohen said. “My son came back in great shape, but not everyone is that fortunate.”

Cohen got involved with veterans’ mental health issues in 2011 through the Robin Hood Foundation, an anti-poverty organization. Then he began supporting the NYU Military Family Clinic. Now, he is investing $275 million nationally in the clinics and plans to open roughly 20 more over the next five years. The goal of the Cohen clinics is to provide confidential mental health services, free of charge, for veterans like Franco.

“Veterans are suffering,” Cohen said in a written response to questions. “They went overseas and paid an extraordinary debt that we need to repay. The goal of my network is to help pay back that debt and get veterans back into society in a functioning way.”

The clinics, part of the nonprofit Cohen Veterans Network, are intended primarily for those who have served in the military during the post-September 11 era, though they are open to all veterans. Cohen said he is putting them in areas of high need.

“There’s a large population of veterans who need mental health services,” said Terri Tanielian, a senior behavioral scientist at Santa Monica-based RAND Corporation. “This provides them with another option. … The clinics certainly add to our nation’s capacity.”

Franco, who lives in Huntington Park, Calif., said that he was able initially to find help through a local nonprofit, but he plans to visit the Cohen clinic in L.A. “very soon.”

In addition to Los Angeles, Cohen’s network also operates clinics in New York City, San Antonio, Philadelphia and Addison, Texas – a suburb of Dallas. They care for veterans regardless of how long they served or how they were discharged. The clinics also serve veterans’ family members. The outpatient centers treat a wide range of mental health disorders and help veterans make the transition back to civilian life. Cohen is also funding a nonprofit research organization, Cohens Veterans Bioscience, that will seek to develop tests and medications for PTSD and traumatic brain injuries.

Cohen is the CEO of Point72 Asset Management in Stamford, Connecticut, and formerly headed SAC Capital Advisors, which pleaded guilty in 2013 to insider trading charges. Cohen himself is temporarily barred from supervising funds that manage outside money – part of an agreement with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The new network of clinics combats “the persistent delays and the persistent lack of access that our service members and our families have experienced,” said Marilyn L. Flynn, the dean of the University of Southern California School of Social Work. The Cohen clinic in Los Angeles operates in partnership with the School of Social Work and USC’s Keck School of Medicine.

“It’s not just lack of access,” Flynn said during the grand opening of the Los Angeles clinic last month. “In some cases, it’s exclusion.”

The VA estimated in 2014 that there were 2.6 million post-9/11 veterans.  They have high rates of depression, PTSD and other mental health problems.

One study by the VA found that about 30% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans treated at Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics had PTSD. Yet only about half of veterans with PTSD are receiving care for their condition, RAND’s Tanielian said. Barriers to care include a shortage of mental health providers and perceptions that seeking care is a sign of weakness or could hurt their career.

Some younger veterans prefer not to use VA facilities for health care, either because of location, concerns about confidentiality or a desire not to take services away from older veterans, Tanielian said.

And many veterans seek care outside the VA because they don’t qualify for the government-funded services, said Milo Peinemann, chief strategy officer at New Directions for Veterans, a Los Angeles nonprofit.

The fact the Cohen clinics don’t have strict eligibility rules will enable them to reach an entire population of veterans who are currently being underserved, Peinemann said.

Over the past decade, community organizations have expanded physical and mental health care access for veterans. The Warrior Care Network, for example, is trying to fill gaps in government care through a partnership with four academic medical centers across the U.S.

Angel Ewers, 41, her husband, and their teenage children are being treated at the Cohen clinic in San Antonio. Ewers said her husband, who served in the Army, Air Force and the National Guard, tried to commit suicide nearly three years ago. Since then, he has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals and seen numerous providers.

He didn’t have a good experience at the VA, Ewers said. “He felt like it was more, ‘Get him in, get him out,’” she said. “He was a number.”

Not having to pay for care at Cohen clinics is a “financial relief”, she said.

When possible, the clinics will bill insurance, said Anthony Hassan, president and CEO of the Cohen Veterans Network. But he noted that not all veterans and family members want their insurance companies to know they are seeking mental health treatment.

Providers across the network will strive to provide care that is based on proven best practices, said Ian Chuang, chief medical officer for Netsmart, a technology company that is tracking outcomes and supporting research at the Cohen clinics.

“The Cohen veteran clinics are trying to push the boundaries and say, ‘We need to do better,’” Chuang said. “We want to be part of figuring out what better means.”

The clinics are staffed by social workers, psychologists and students, including veterans. At the Los Angeles clinic, providers offer individual counseling, substance abuse treatment and psychiatric services. Staff members also connect families with other services, including transportation, housing and child care.

The clinic plans to open satellite centers around Los Angeles County and to collaborate with existing providers.

Partnering with a university and having the flexibility of private funds makes the L.A. clinic uniquely qualified to provide the best scientific treatment as it evolves, said Marvin Southard, the clinic’s CEO and former mental health director for L.A. County. “And it’s constantly evolving,” he said.

Kaiser Health News is a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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Family Endeavors Helps Vets and Their Families

The free Military Family Clinic in San Antonio focuses on serving the whole Veteran family, not just the Veteran.

|Nov. 23, 2016|

|San Antonio Express-News|

Three years ago, Michael Ewers saw the bathroom mirror was broken, and he knew his father needed help. John Ewers, a veteran, tried to kill himself in late 2013 and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. His wife, Angel, and his four children struggled in the wake of his illness.

“I was pretty much trying to handle all that was going on with our home,” Angel Ewers said.

“I felt guilty, like I could have done something,” his daughter Hannah Ewers, 16, said.

“I didn’t want to think my parents could commit suicide,” Michael, now 18, said. “I just wanted to think everything could come back together.”

Since last year, the Ewers have been attending family counseling sessions at the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic, which offers free mental health care to veterans and their dependents. The clinic, operated in partnership with the San Antonio nonprofit Family Endeavors, also treats spouses and children exposed to second-hand trauma and work to repair marriages and parent-child relationships.

“When there is a traumatic event or something that happens to someone in a family, that impacts the entire family,” Travis Pearson, CEO of Family Endeavors, said.

“More and more veterans are openly expressing how their PTSD diagnosis have impacted their relationships with their spouses, partners and children,” Kat Cole, clinic director at the Cohen facility, said.

Sometimes, a veteran can come in for individual counseling, and then for marriage counseling, and then family counseling. The children, too, can receive individual counseling, Pearson said.

All of this is free, Pearson said. Family members can be defined how the veteran wants, and veterans are seen regardless of discharge status. The center also offers free services such as housing assistance, workshops, Uber rides to the clinic, and on-site child care.

Since opening the clinic in April, Family Endeavors in San Antonio has seen 342 veterans and family members for therapy, has housed 944 veterans and family members, and has brought 297 veterans and their families in for life skills workshops, according to numbers from the center.

Family Endeavors has already expanded since opening the clinic in April, Pearson said. It now runs about 120 sessions a week.

The first time the Ewers family attended a family session, they didn’t speak much, John Ewers said. John had gone to therapy before, but it was a new experience for his children.

“We were learning to talk to each other,” Angel recalled. “Our family, we keep it to ourselves, we don’t want to be a burden.”

John spent six years in the Army as a Bradley mechanic, which included one tour to Macedonia and one tour to Iraq in 2003-04. He then spent nine years in the Air Force Reserves and Air National Guard, he said.

“I was just putting on a face, until I finally broke,” John said. “I didn’t want to deal with it all, but I couldn’t run away from myself.”

Speaking as a family allowed issues beneath the surface to rise up.

Leah, 19, told the family how she felt she had to be the big responsible sister after her father’s suicide attempt. Then, she buckled under the pressure, leaving home for a while and entering the wrong crowd, she said. Family counseling was the first time she told this to the family, she said.

“We had time to address issues with the family,” John Ewers said, “address it in a safe place, work together to come up with a resolution.”

Today, on the advice of their counselors, the family schedules meetings at their home where they talk.

“I don’t think people really think about how it affects other people in the family,” Angel said. “That’s why I appreciate Family Endeavors, they’re there for everyone, trying to make sure everyone’s needs are being met.”

“There’s been a vast improvement,” John Ewers said, “with my family, their individual needs are taken care of.”

Writer J.p. Lawrence can be reached at

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