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This One Percent Needs Our Support
One percent of the U.S. population has voluntarily chosen to join the military to serve and protect our country. Their oath to defend us should not have to include a vow of poverty, homelessness or the burden of trauma-induced mental illness. For far too many of them, it does.
In the small town of Yountville, California, we made real breakthroughs for this group of deserving veterans. In 2008, we created The Pathway Home (TPH), on the grounds of the California Veterans Home, to provide comprehensive treatment for our nation’s Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI) and other post-combat mental health challenges.
The residential treatment program began with a generous gift from a visionary philanthropist who wanted to help a younger generation of veterans find a “pathway home” from war. Since its founding, more than 450 individuals, and their spouses and families, have benefitted from the specialized clinical treatment Pathway offered. Numerous local philanthropists, service clubs (especially Bay Area Rotary Clubs) and other nonprofits, as well as the California Department of Veterans Affairs and the US Department of Veterans Affairs, have supported this leading-edge, comprehensive program. The Pathway Home developed a model of holistic care, which added partnerships with members of the local community to connect education, career development and other non-clinical reintegration opportunities to the veterans to enhance their clinical care and long-term success.
By building a deep well of support and ensuring ongoing community involvement in the program’s success, TPH has received national recognition as a model for welcoming and healing veterans. More importantly, it has provided an opportunity for residents to practice the tools and skills they learn and to be treated as valued members of the community. Like so many compassionate communities across America, the Napa Valley wants to play an active role in helping them to rebound from their difficult war experiences. This is the essence of the true homecoming that these heroes need and deserve.
On March 9, 2018, that all changed.
That is the day a troubled individual entered the facility with a high-powered rifle and took the lives of three brave women, the core of TPH’s clinical staff: executive director Christine Loeber, LCSW, and staff therapists Dr. Jennifer Gonzales Shushereba, PsyD, and Dr. Jennifer Golick, PhD. Each had devoted her career to helping veterans. The board of directors had to suspend the program’s operations in the aftermath of these killings and relocate residents to other mental health programs in the area.
Now we are faced with a monumental challenge. How can we honor and memorialize these brave women and continue their work? The March 9 gunman took innocent lives and put a halt to our program, but this incident did not change the critical needs of our veterans who deal with mental health and community reintegration issues. Our best hope now is to continue TPH’s 10 years of success by partnering with the VA and other veteran-serving organizations to create and fund more Pathway Homes across the nation. A Pathway Home Network is the most promising way we can think of to help our country’s warriors transition from the military to civilian success. Identifying and responding to the challenges faced by our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, our program remains an innovative model for providing veteran behavioral health services.
So, we are issuing a call to compassionate communities across America to band together with public and private partners, service organizations, and our elected leaders to continue the important mission we started in 2008 with The Pathway Home. We can help replicate our successful Yountville model and make sure it’s right for the unique character of your community.
We can think of no more fitting service for our nation’s post-9/11 veterans with mental health services than a national network of community-based Pathway Homes deeply rooted within our cities and towns across America.
There is also no more fitting tribute to Christine, Jennifer and Jenn and the work to which they dedicated and gave their lives.
Chair, Board of Directors, The Pathway Home