Serving Homeless Veterans in El Cajon- East County Magazine

East County Magazine

Serving Homeless Veterans: Hawley Veterans Center in El Cajon

By Janis Russell

August 21, 2015 (San Diego)- Mary Lubey, division director of Behavioral Health Sciences from Volunteers of America Southwest, recently sat down with ECM to talk about Hawley Veterans Center and what the center has been doing to help veterans among other topics. Lubey is also in charge of overseeing the program manager at Hawley Veterans Center at 9980 Hawley Road in El Cajon.

Volunteers of America Southwest has been in business for more than 119 years. Each year, they serve over 13,000 individuals, children and families in San Diego County, Imperial County, and Southern California’s Inland Empire. “We focus on the areas of behavioral health, housing and social development of young children and families,” Lubey says.

Services are offered for mental health, alcohol and drug treatment and reintegration following incarceration. With all behavioral health programs, they serve veterans, and there are two veteran specific programs that focus on housing stability and self-sufficiency. Hawley Veterans Services has a 20-bed transitional housing program for homeless veterans who have a mental health disability.

A recent study came out on July 22 that shows more than 40 years after fighting in Vietnam, about 11 percent of combat veterans still suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and far more of them are getting worse than are getting better. Some 271,000 Vietnam veterans suffer from PTSD.

What asked for her response to this study, Lubey noted,“400 Vietnam-era veterans who formerly participated in the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study were recently evacuated for mental health symptoms including PTSD.” The study demonstrated that characteristics associated with aging can have affect PTSD symptoms. Symptoms that usually come with aging like diminishing physical health, shrinking social supports, and changes to cognition paired with PTSD symptoms can significantly impair aging individuals. The article also emphasized the importance of accessing mental health services “early on.” This is especially important with new war veterans diagnosed with PTSD from Iraq and Afghanistan. (View the article at:http://www.stripes.com/news/study-for-most-vietnam-veterans-with-ptsd-sy...)

Lubey has been a part of Hawley Veterans Center. The goal there is to first focus on addressing the issue of homelessness by providing safe and stable housing for up to 18 months. This allows vets to stabilize and focus on the hard work of addressing their mental health symptoms,“ she states. The program coordinates with local VA [hospital] and other community providers to link the veteran to mental health treatment programs.” Simultaneously, the veteran works with program case managers to identify permanent housing options, find employment, and/or other resources to increase income and build life skills through individual and group sessions.

As far as families and vets getting help for vets who are struggling, Lubey said, “Luckily, we live in a county that is saturated with veterans services.” They can reach out to Hawley Veterans Center or another community provider. They can call 2-1-1 and Courage to Call can also help refer the vet to a service or program.

When vets first enter the Hawley Vets Center, they fill out an application. They have to be homeless and have a mental health disability.

Her last thoughts were: “There is so much stigma surrounding mental health, that it often creates barriers to treatment. Individuals who may otherwise benefit from treatment often do not access services because of the stigma associated with having a mental health diagnosis.”

In order to ensure all individuals access mental health services, the community must remove the barriers and stigma which start with genuine conversations and acceptance, she believes.

Full article: http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/serving-homeless-veterans-hawley-veterans-center-el-cajon