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Providing Free Mental Healthcare for Veterans

By Kimberly Tyler

With so much at stake for the health, well-being and lives of military and returning veterans, where is a veteran to go who needs help now?

We hear stories of military personal with symptoms of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder being sent back to the front lines with medication in their pockets.  For those who are discharged with a diagnosis of PTSD, there are stories of lost job placement in national or local government security.  We know the Department of Veterans Affairs is still being criticized for what appears to be an unhurried plan for accurate diagnosis, treatment on the fields, and treatment back on home soil.[1] [2]  It is only of late that the Department of Veterans Affairs has given serious attention to mental health concerns, yet such urgency is overdue. In the meantime, those who are afflicted are suffering.

Recognizing the pressing need, Dr. Barbara V. Romberg, a psychologist located in Washington, DC, has stepped up to the plate.  As the founder and president of the non-profit organization Give an Hour, Dr. Romberg has made it her mission to link together mental health professionals and returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan and their families for free treatment for mental health concerns. 

The concept of Give an Hour (GAH) is for mental health providers to “give an hour of their time” voluntarily to help in the treatment of both acute and chronic mental health concerns including PTSD, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, bereavement, and marital issues (among others).  The service offers both individual and group therapies.  In turn, those receiving treatment are then provided the opportunity (not required) to give back to “give of their time” to a community project sponsored in their area by GAH once their treatment comes to an end.  Bottom line: A pay-it-forward plan where everyone receives needed support. 

GAH was established in September 2005 by Dr. Romberg.  Currently, GAH has over 800 providers nationwide, and 100 in the Washington, DC area alone.  GAH is also actively engaged in the growing interest shared by the veterans and families they support to work to supplement existing programs offered through the Department of Defense and the Veteran’s Association.  In the meantime, their online network of service-for-service is growing.  All veterans and their families may utilize this network, regardless of any other mental health treatment offered by the VA (although this means access to treatment is tried first; however, often such treatment is either inadequate or not available even if their benefits for treatment exist.)  Further, the extension of Give an Hour’s reach to include all family members affected is also of benefit, as a veteran’s coverage does not necessarily include mental health treatment for moms, dads, siblings, or other family members. 

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