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California veterans call for emphasis on mental health services

VETERANS

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Kris Skinner is a veteran who has seen great progress dealing with PTSD through alternative programs outside of Veterans Affairs hospitals. He has received help from the Soldiers Project and is active in the Ride 2 Recovery program, which enables veterans to participate in long distance group bike rides. The rides serve as a form of therapy for people dealing with PTSD, Skinner said. He retired from the Army as Captain in the 10th Mountain Division after serving in Kosovo and Iraq.

One of the veterans eagerly awaiting word on this bill is Vietnam vet Fred Gusman. He currently heads a veterans group in Napa Valley called The Pathway Home.

He's also the former director of the Veteran Affairs National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in California.

Testifying before the Senate in 2006, Gusman called for effective response to returning veterans suffering from PTSD and other post-war issues, including early intervention.

"Greater implementation of early intervention strategies for service members recently exposed to highly stressful events provides an opportunity to apply primary prevention to offset the psychological trauma of combat operations," Gusman testified.

Eight years later, those needs are still apparent and the problems facing the VA today are not new, Gusman told Take Two. Though more resources will help, there's a broader systemic change that's needed in the agency, he said.

"We need to start looking at how do we come together to support the returnees," he said.


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