At the Joint Jacobi Medical Center and North Central Bronx Hospital Community Advisory Board and the JMC Auxilary, Inc. conference the dire needs of our veterans and what is needed to combat their very serious issues.  All of the speakers who spoke have had major experiences in helping our veterans. Most have served in the military themselves and therefore are in a unique position to not only help but to use their personal experiences.

Ms. Wendy Burch, Executive Director, National  Alliance on Mental Issues, NAMI, NYS Ms. Burch was a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army serving through 2003. She led a platoon in the Balkan Theater during Operation Joint Guard. She went on to hold two company commands. Her personal knowledge regarding what service men and women go through and how they react to condition while serving were very clearly stated. her major thrust was that unfortunately the military philosophy stops many from reporting mental issues for fear of being considered weak and not meeting military standards. She also spoke about her experiences as a woman in the military. In an exclusive interview with The Bronx Chronicle  she said: “I’m excited to be a part of this conference in support of our returning members.It is of the utmost importance to address the mental health struggles these brace men and women are experiencing as a result of their experiences and for us to do whatever we can to aid in their recovery.”

Mr. Christopher Munn and Ms. Linda Wilkinson spoke about homelessness among veterans. Mr Munn served in the U.S. Marines. He is specializing n providing housing and supportive services such as financial, vocational and treatment for individuals who are ready to leave the Emergency Shelter or homeless individuals and families who are housing ready. Ms. Wikinson specializes in evidence-based data collection for $2 million in HUD grant funding for homeless housing programs.  In an elusive interview Mr. Munn said: ” Central New York Services is committed to serving homeless veterans in accessing housing, managing their fiscal affairs and seeking treatment as they reintegrate into our thankful society.” There presentation included detailed analysis of the issues facing veterans: post-traumatic stress disorder, substance use, grief, traumatic brain injury, homelessness , getting a job and depression. It was pointed out that 33% of homeless are veterans.

Dr. Richard Silverman has served for 25 years as Program Manager for the Hudson Valley Veterans Administration Hospital. He specializes in PTSD, its diagnosis and treatment.   He gave very detailed explanation about what PTSD is all about and the effectiveness of trauma-based psychotherapy.

Roberto Rodriguez who presently works as a supervisor with Jacobi’s Stan Up to Violence ( SUV) initiative. He is very involved in training dogs to assist individuals with disabilities. One of his most recent accomplishments was training a service dog that was paired with a veteran who suffered from PTSD and suffered TBI while serving in Iraq.

Jeff McQueen, Director, Consumer Link; Director PFC Dwyer/Vet 2 Vet Project of the peer intervention program of the Health Association of Nassau County. gave a very sensitive and moving presentation on Veterans Helping veterans to cope on a 1:1 or in a group setting. He pointed out how past strategies no longer were working and that peer intervention was the best way to get good results.

One veteran and community activist who attended was Sal Conforto  Mr. Conforto emphasized that rather that dwelling on statistics action was needed: action through legislation funding and through community involvement. Assemblyman Michael Benedetto and Councilman Andy Cohen discussed the roles they are playing in their respective legislative bodies to enhance and provide services to our veterans.

“We can never do enough for our veterans.  They  have all made a sacrifice for our country.  Let’s honor them not only on Memorial Day & Veterans Day but every day,” said  Sylvia Lask, Chair of Behavior Health Service for Jacobi  & North Central Hospital Advisory Board.


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