Thursday February 28, 2013

HINSDALE, N.H. -- Not every battle wound is on the surface.

Military servicemembers and veterans, and their families, often fight with conditions brought on by the demands of their lives -- from post traumatic stress disorder to substance abuse to domestic abuse.

With this mind, the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, in partnership with the National Guard Bureau's Prevention, Treatment and Outreach Program, with funding assistance from the Corporation for National and Community Service, created the VetCorps project to make sure military families have access to the services they need. There is a special emphasis on serving the needs of National Guard and Reserve families.

Each member will be placed in one of CADCA's community coalitions -- including the one in Hinsdale.

Patrice Strifert, the coordinator at the Hinsdale Community Coalition, said the proper paperwork was filed, and the Hinsdale chapter of VetCorps was approved about a month ago. She said last week she had just gotten back from a CADCA convention in Baltimore, where she received VetCorps training and learned "the ins and outs" of the program.

She said VetCorps' objective is to examine who in the Hinsdale military community has fallen through the cracks and why it happened. She said identifying those who need access to social, mental or physical care is the only way to improve their quality of life.


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Strifert said HCC is looking for a leader for the town's VetCorps chapter and some applications have already been filed. She said the chapter is in the middle of the selection process and there has been a wide range of applicants -- including veterans who have seen combat, those who have not, and one stay-at-home father. Applications are still welcome.

Strifert said the position will pay a taxable stipend of $1,000 a month and come with minimal health insurance benefits.

Valerie Morgan, administrator for prevention services at the N.H. Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Services, said the VetCorps project will receive $1.2 million from the N.H. Charitable Foundation every year for the next 10 years. She said there are about 7,500 veterans in Cheshire County, as well as 1,081 active-duty National Guard and Reserve members and their dependents.

Morgan said there is an increased sensitivity to military families and the struggles they endure and there has been a goal to bring VetCorps up to scale and work with local community coalitions. She said the bureau is in a memorandum of understanding with the National Guard Counterdrug Task Force.

Morgan said there is a greater volume of self-medication and substance abuse within military families. She said the United States Department of Defense conducted a study -- known as the Millennium Cohort Study -- that reported 22 percent of National Guard members were problem drinkers, 29 percent had financial issues and 5 percent had suicidal thoughts.

She said much of this is due to the stress of military life and the anxiety that comes with overseas deployment. Not seeing your loved ones for months at a time can put a strain on any servicemember or his or her family, she said.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.