Statewide program providing mental healthcare to vets here in the Chippewa Valley

Chippewa Falls (WQOW)-  On Thursday, legislators and citizens talked about how to get veterans the help they need, with a program supported in the governor’s budget proposal.

Data shows veterans can be at an even higher risk of mental illness. The VA said vets are twice as likely to die by suicide.

To combat that, in less than a year, the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs has enrolled more than 550 veterans in the Veterans Outreach and Recovery Program, which gives vets access to case management, mental healthcare and substance abuse resources.

Nearly 70 of those at-risk veterans are from the Eau Claire area.

Regional Coordinator Karla Peterson said she seeks out former service members suffering from homelessness, substance abuse and mental health issues.

She said if they can get vets the help they need, that suicide rate could drop.

“The stigma that’s attached to mental health, just letting people be aware of the mental health services that are out there and that it’s okay, especially with our veterans, that it’s okay to reach out and get help for your mental health and just be a healthy person again,” Peterson said.

Peterson said it can take weeks or months to get vets to accept help.

The Veterans Outreach and Recovery Program was funded by the legislature as a temporary project in April of last year.

Governor Tony Evers’ budget proposal would make it permanent.

Shannon Satterlee

Shannon Satterlee

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