New Mental Health Clinic Offers Transportation, Child Care To Get Veterans Help
Thursday, September 5, 2019
Photo by Tarryn Mento
Navy veteran Martin Pawlik knows how difficult it is to get mental health care and stick with it. The former hospital corpsman served three tours, including in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he treated fellow service members injured by bombs.
Pawlik said that experience, plus a divorce and transitioning back into student life at San Diego State University eventually overwhelmed him.
“You realize you need help at some point and you try to find it, but you don’t always find the right resource,” he said.
Pawlik now helps address that issue as outreach manager at the newly opened Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Veterans Village of San Diego. The Mission Valley facility has short-term treatment for anxiety, depression, insomnia and other conditions among post-9/11 vets, but also helps address simple barriers that may keep them from asking for help.
“We want to be that right resource for people,” Pawlik said.
Unaddressed mental health needs can lead to suicide, especially among military veterans.
The Cohen clinic provides transportation to its site for patients within a 30-mile radius, offers child care and treats the uninsured for free. There’s also video conference for patients to access care from their own homes, and its services extend to family members, including kids and spouses.
Pawlik said members of the facility’s staff served in the military or are familiar with the lifestyle.
“They bring that kind of lived experience along with their expertise,” he said.
Licensed clinical social worker Marla Monk’s husband has been in the Navy for 23 years. She said she has seen how the demands of the job have affected him and his familial relationships.
“He is sacrificing his time away from his kids — he’s missed birthdays, he’s missed Christmases, he’s missed ... a pre-school graduation, and that’s hard,” said Monk, who’s father is also a veteran.
“I definitely can relate to the challenges of military life and how hard it can be to find your way sometimes so if I can be any part of your journey of getting back to better, I’m honored to be a part of that,” she said.
The facility gives veterans another option than the Veterans Health Administration, which also provides telehealth care. Wait times for an appointment with the VA can vary by location and relatives are not entitled to care.
The clinic focuses on assisting veterans who served after 9/11 and their families, but will help service members from any time. Active duty personnel are excluded but relatives may still access help.
Funding for the clinic, which is one of 14 across the country and the only one in California, comes from philanthropist Steven Cohen. The nonprofit Cohen Veterans Network will seek government grants and local donations to sustain it.
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