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March / April 2009

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March / April 2009


BY TOM BERGER


During the past year, the PTSD & Substance Abuse Committee continued to advocate with Congress, the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense, the Institutes of Medicine, along with other federal agencies and commissions to initiate, improve, and expand the mental health and substance abuse resources and programs for our nation’s veterans as directed by committee resolutions PTSD-1-95, PTSD-2-95, PTSD-3-95, PTSD-5-95, PTSD-4-99, PTSD-1-05, and PTSD-2-05.

In doing so, the committee also focused on raising awareness about PTSD, TBI, MST (PTSD-6-03 and PTSD-10-07), suicide, and related mental health and substance abuse issues through its testimony on the Hill, public presentations, educational outreach, media interviews, as well as through partnerships with other veterans service organizations such as the Veterans of Modern Warfare, the Student Veterans of America, and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (PTSD-7-01). Several of the resolutions were modified appropriately and adopted by the VVA Board of Directors for inclusion in VVA’s 2009 Legislative Agenda.

The Committee sponsored two seminars by Dr. Matt Freidman, Director of the National Center for PTSD, at the 2008 Leadership Conference and reprinted its PTSD and Suicide Risk and Prevention brochures, thanks to the generosity of the Government Affairs Committee. Two Committee members continued to represent VVA on the VA’s Substance Abuse Quality Assurance and Research Initiative Executive Committee, and the former Committee chair represented VVA on several other government and agency committees, including the VA’s Committee for the Care for the Severely Mentally Ill, the VA’s Mental Health Quality Enhancement Research Initiative Executive Committee and its Depression Subcommittee, the VA’s South Central Mental Illness Research and Education Clinical Center, the National Leadership Forum on Behavioral Health–Criminal Justice Services and the Steering Committee for the National Trauma Campaign of the National Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

None of the accomplishments noted above would have been possible without the support, encouragement, and help of PTSD/SA Committee members and the cooperation of the VVA Women Veterans, Homeless Veterans, Health Care, Government Affairs, and Veterans Incarcerated Committees, along with the VVA Government Relations staff, the VVA Communications and IT Departments, and the VVA officers, board members, and staff.


The PTSD and Substance Abuse Committee: Dr. Tom Berger, former Chair; Fr. Phil Salois, Vice Chair. Members: Randy Bane, Pat Bessigano, Liz Cannon, Tony Catapano, Bob Corsa, Marsha Four, Sandy Miller, Dr. Ed Ryan, Jim Shott, and Dan Stenvold. Special Advisors: Kathy Andras, Kathleen Aylward-Barnes, Suzanne Blohm-Weber, Frances Cartier, Donna-Marie Crowell, Felicea Catapano, Dee Hagge, Dr. Paul Harrigan, Diane Kuhn-Nicholson, Mary Miller, and Nancy Switzer. Members in Memoriam: Randy “Doc” Barnes, Steve Mason, and Lynda Van Devanter. Staff Liaison: Mokie Pratt Porter.


FROM THE NEW COMMITTEE CHAIR

Welcome Home. My name is Tom C. Hall. I am a Vietnam veteran and founding life member of VVA Chapter 317 in Kansas City, Missouri, and the new Chair of VVA’s PTSD & Substance Abuse Committee. Because PTSD is both a personal and family experience, it’s only right that I tell you a little about myself.

I began working on my own war trauma after I returned from Vietnam in early 1970. Returning to The World, I was confused, alienated, and angry. I measured my experience against the worst situation, did not feel my experience was as bad, and that I could not have possibly been harmed in any meaningful way. It was only after attending informal rap groups to talk about what Dr. Robert Lifton was calling “Post Vietnam Syndrome” that it occurred to me that something was going on inside me. I needed to deal with it, or it would deal with me.

As Committee Chair, I will draw heavily from my experiences as a high school counselor and teacher, inpatient and outpatient therapist, and consultant for the Department of Justice in developing drug courts and also for the Department of Education in establishing alternative schools for troubled youth across the nation.

Because of the support from my spouse of 32 years, my 27-year-old son, the rest of my family, fellow veterans, and friends, I am now able to perform the duties of a full-time tenured college psychology professor and coordinator of the counselor training program specializing in addictions at Kansas City, Kansas, Community College. In the interest of keeping intensity at levels that most veterans can relate to, I also am helping out an alternative inner-city school as interim principal. How this all fits with my military service as a Military Police Sentry Dog Handler is anybody’s guess.

I have a passionate interest in expanding quality mental health and addiction services to veterans and their families. Former Committee Chair Tom Berger and all the members of the committee are an inspiration in dedication and passion for veterans and their families. Mental health and addiction programs are slowly maturing, and we have come a long way since the days of “Post Vietnam Syndrome.”

But we are not yet where we need to be. I look forward to working with anyone interested in helping our veterans and their families as they navigate their way home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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