Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Grant aids veterans in need of mental health services in Tacoma area

A $1.6 million grant and expansion of a Tacoma-area golf course that is a second home for many wounded veterans took center stage Aug. 18 at an event focused on the importance of mental health counseling services.

Commissioner Kreidler joined veterans, their families and representatives of the United Health Foundation in the gathering at the American Lakes Golf Course in Pierce County.

The event centered around the presentation of a $1.6 million grant to benefit "Give an Hour," a national nonprofit organization providing free confidential  mental health services to military members and their families.  The award from the United Health Foundation will be split between Tacoma and Houston.

The grant will help "Give an Hour" raise awareness of available programs, grow its mental health care provider network, and help veterans and their families access services.

"No one deserves more than those who wear the uniform," said the commissioner, a retired Lt. Colonel of 20 years in the Army Reserves.

Others speaking at the event were Dr. John Mateczun, president of UnitedHealthCare Military and Veterans; Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, president and founder of Give an Hour; and Lourdes "Alfie" Alvarado-Ramos, secretary of Washington state Department of Veteran Affairs.

The featured speakers, though, were veterans and devoted golfers Jim Martinson and Aaron Boyle.  Both noted the importance of mental health services for wounded vets.

Martinson lost his legs to a "Bouncing Betty" land mine in Vietnam in 1968. Another land mine blew off the right leg and arm of Boyle in Afghanistan several years ago. Both cited the availability of mental counseling in helping them through their lengthy recoveries, physical and spiritual.

"These services are desperately needed by many veterans and their families in our community," Boyle said.  "Give an Hour will benefit so many who need help."