Our Opinion: Caring for the champions among us

Wednesday August 21, 2013

Kudos to the participants of the Ride for Heroes who helped raise more than $11,000 for the Brattleboro Retreat's Uniformed Service Program.

The USP is a specialty program designed by the Retreat to meet the needs of uniformed professionals (military service members, emergency medical responders, police and firefighters, etc.) whose experiences have negatively affected their lives and careers.

The funds raised will help pay for services for clients who lack the necessary insurance coverage.

Since the program started in 2009, the Retreat has provided $250,000 in uncompensated care to USP clients, and has used the Ride for Heroes to help cover some of those costs. On Aug. 17, more than 220 motorcyclists turned out to cruise the 60-mile course, a record number of participants for the fundraiser, which will celebrate its fifth year next year.

When it was introduced, the Retreat's program was welcomed with a sigh of relief by many of the caregivers who provide services to America's veterans and emergency responders. On a daily basis, professionals in uniform witness death, disaster, maimings, and human tragedy.

While many of them have support systems that enable them to deal with the stresses and repercussion of their jobs, many of them turn to alcohol and drugs, have anxiety and depression, and suffer from health issues caused by stress.

It's a fact that these good men and women suffer from a high rate of post-traumatic stress disorder that affects their careers and their personal lives.

Fortunately, PTSD is a treatable condition, and the Uniformed Services Program has proven to be successful in helping veterans and emergency responders come to grips with the emotions, memories and responses that are part and parcel of their jobs.

Unfortunately, not enough of these people are getting the help they need, either because their health insurance policies don't cover programs such as the one offered by the Retreat or they don't have health insurance at all.

And when you think about it, it's kind of disgraceful that the very people who are tasked with protecting us may not get the care they need to stay healthy or to recover from PTSD just because they don't have the funds to pay for an intensive program such as the Uniformed Service Program.

It's indicative of our nation's priorities that we can find billions of dollars to fight wars on terrorism and drugs but we can't afford to care for those who are in the line of fire or responding to tragedies every day.

Organizations such as the Retreat can do what they can, but their pockets aren't bottomless.

And while we applaud wholeheartedly the people who donate and participate in events such as the Ride for Heroes, and we encourage them to continue to do so, when are we going to demand that our lawmakers do the right thing and figure out a way to make sure that all of these people who need help, get the help they deserve?

It's the least we can do for those who put their lives on the line every day.


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