Health summit details programs, services for Lake County veterans

Health officials are reporting progress in developing a list of services and programs available to veterans and their families in Lake County.

The update was provided Tuesday during the second annual Mental Health Summit at the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center (FHCC) in North Chicago. The stated goal is to enhance mental health care for veterans and their families through collaboration between the FHCC and other agencies across the region.

“What you see here is the [federal Department of Veterans Affairs] taking the opportunity to reach out to the community,” said Bill Flood, division head for mental health special programs at the FHCC. “We started this last year because so many providers and agencies wanted to help.”

“We’re looking for collaboration,” he added. “Last year providers told us they didn’t understand us, the military culture.”

To correct that, the health center hosted a session on military culture, covering everything from the command structure to the different ranks and demographics of service members.

Flood said they have seen improvement in community collaboration.

“Take SAMHSA, it’s part of the Lake County Health Department,” he said, referring to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Agency.

“They focus on veteran families, I think this is the fourth year of their grant,” Flood said.

“We’re not behind the fences here doing it ourselves,” he said, referring to the base’s fences.

He also gave an example of how the center recently learned McHenry County offerse a mobile food pantry for veterans.

“Who would know that? Now today anyone asking about a veteran who needs food in McHenry County, you can just connect the dots and bring food to their house,” he said.

Officials are also urging community caregivers to register on the National Resource Directory, a federal government website that connects wounded warriors, service members, veterans, families and caregivers to thousands of services and programs at the national, state and local levels.

Information is provided for recovery, rehabilitation, reintegration, post-traumatic stress disorder, educational opportunities, homeless assistance, employment and more. The website is www.ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits/nrd.

Next year, Flood said the center will combine its mental health and homeless summits into one because to be more efficient.

Deanna Olmen, manager of community investments and Safe and Stable families for United Way of Lake County, attended a breakout session focusing on veteran families.

Her goal was to make sure everyone knew a list of over 1,900 programs and providers called Find Help Lake County is available online at www.findhelplakecounty.org.

“We just learned of this summit and we wanted to make sure they knew about this,” she said.

Anne Clinton Cirocco, a section leader for the outpatient mental health network at FHCC, was running the breakout session.

The group discussed gaps in coverage for grandparents and siblings of veterans battling mental health issues. They also talked about services for children of active duty members. Issues are often heightened because one parent can be gone for long periods of time and military families move around a lot.

“We do this to get to know our community partners,” she said. “Look at all the resources they were talking about and some we didn’t know about.”

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