Nonviolence Works offers services for veterans

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In the four Northern New Mexico counties (Taos, Colfax, Mora and Union), 6,525 veterans have just been informed - or perhaps may not even know - that all services for therapeutic counseling or social services through the Department of Veterans Affairs are not available until further notice. All appointments are canceled through Nov. 15 or longer, until a new social worker has been licensed and credentialed and arrives in Taos. The closest services are in Albuquerque.

Nonviolence Works has always listened to the community and created programs to fill needs identified by community agencies, leaders and individuals. We do not believe it is moral or ethical or compassionate to leave these veterans out in the cold. We are here for them and want to hear from veterans themselves or the caring people in their circle who recognize the need for support.

NVW has a variety of services available, but some clinical staff are uniquely qualified to support veterans. Karen House is a licensed independent counselor with 10 years' experience providing direct services to active duty personnel, including two years embedded in special operations. She also specializes in programming for military victims of sexual assault and grief care for military families who've lost a service member. Skilled in treating combat stress, post-traumatic stress disorder and reintegration issues, she is available for referrals (or a simple cup of coffee to chat) by calling her directly at (575) 779-6913. She can also be accessed through NVW's main number: (575) 758-4297.

NVW will also be recruiting additional clinicians with special experience to support New Mexico veterans and their families. Our clinicians understand that effective transition to civilian life involves recognition that the camaraderie and teamwork of military life is a terrible loss upon separation from service. In addition to counseling, employment that builds on military skills and homeless prevention programs are vital.

New Mexico ranks 13th in the United States in the concentration of veterans in our population. About 12.3 percent of Taos County's population is veterans; in Colfax, it is 12.6 percent; in Union County, 10.2 percent; and in Mora, 9.9 percent.

Nearly 40 percent of all our veterans served in Vietnam, more than 28 percent in the Gulf War, nearly 11 percent in the Korean War, 4 percent in World War II and the remaining 18 percent in Afghanistan and Iraq. In the entire population of New Mexico veterans, about 24 percent report a service-connected disability, but the figures for Iraq and Afghanistan alone tell a more desperate story. The U.S. military reports that one-third of the veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have complex mental and behavioral health disabilities. These service veterans are younger New Mexico residents, are more likely to have had multiple deployments and to have survived injuries with resultant disabilities that would have killed military personnel in previous wars.

Extracting from national statistics, approximately one New Mexico veteran commits suicide every three days and up to 3,000 New Mexico veterans are probably homeless. These data relate a shameful reality for those individuals who volunteered go to war in our behalf. Now that they are home - and expected to re-enter civilian life, where they may be on constant vigilance for danger to themselves and their comrades - they need our support and a way forward that provides consistent, vigilant care.

As NVW works to implement our services in a new residential treatment program for adolescent males, we have a vision of developing a program that could integrate the needs of military veterans and these boys. We think that the mutual mentoring benefits of such a program will help with the stigma that is often attached to the idea of veterans seeking mental health services. We also realize that a number of veterans need more than day treatment appointments. We are here for you, veterans, family members and friends. We know the transitions are hard and we all owe you attention, caring and support.

NVW has a large staff of trained behavioral health counselors and social workers. Call (575) 758-4297 or visit nonviolenceworks.us. McPhail Gray is the board chair of NVW and can be reached at (575) 779-3126 or mcphailconsulting@gmail.com.

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