Hanover to offer counseling to veterans, but still needs clinicians – The Patriot Ledger

Hanover to offer counseling to veterans, but still needs clinicians – The Patriot Ledger

HANOVER – On Nov. 11, 2021, Veterans Day, Army veteran Joe Bonfiglio talked about coming home after being deployed to Iraq.
“Daily I struggle with the experiences from, the visions, of the war,” Bonfiglio said. “They’ve infiltrated almost every moment of my life.”
Bonfiglio said he deals with constant hypervigilance, and when he’s alone he runs combat scenarios through his mind 20 to 30 times a day.
“There’s a general feeling everyone is an enemy until proven otherwise,” he said.
Air Force veteran Andrew Mayne, who deployed to Iraq multiple times, said he struggled with finding a purpose and feeling comfortable with people at home.
“This led to isolation, depression, anger, abusing drugs and being overly medicated by the VA, where, at one point in time, I was taking a pill for anything that I needed to function in life. You name it, I was on it,” Mayne said.
Those stories from veterans pushed Hanover town leaders to want to do something, and Veterans Agent James Crosby knew what was needed: a team to provide mental health services to veterans and their family members without having to refer anyone to the backlogged Veterans Affairs system.
WATCH: Hanover Veterans Day ceremony, 2021
Town Manager Joseph Colangelo said the town has authorized the program to spend up to $125,000 a year of money from the federal American Rescue Plan Act, a small portion of the $4.3 million the town received from the federal pandemic stimulus package.
For Crosby, the need for mental health professionals to work with veterans is clear.
“More often than not, 70% of the time, the vets we come into contact with can benefit from meeting with a mental health provider,” he said.
Hanover is trying to hire part-time behavioral/mental health clinicians to conduct individual and group counseling, provide assessments and case management, handle crisis issues and perform other duties. The position pays $50 to $70 an hour, plus mileage, according to the job listing.
Director of Community and Elder Services Tammy Murray said she can already provide some counseling to veterans, but is trying to get a few providers to do the bulk of the work.
Paying $50-$70/hour: Hanover seeks veterans’ behavior health/mental health clinicians, up to 19 hours/week
 The help is also important for the other part of Crosby’s job: getting veterans the benefits they’re entitled to and into programs that can help them.
“If I claim a disability, I have to show how my time there affected me. Or worse, how it’s actively affecting my home life,” Crosby said.
Crosby’s idea is to offer mental health services to veterans and their families, regardless of their discharge status, quickly and as often as they need it instead of referring them to a system where an appointment could be months, or longer, away.
“It comes down to the fact that there are waiting lists and sometimes you don’t have the time to wait on a list,” Murray said. “The people we’re trying to reach, they don’t want to drive to Jamaica Plain in Boston, but they’ll take the service if it’s right here.”
Contact: Hanover’s Veteran Services
The idea is to help a veteran holistically by treating their family members as well to help everyone in the family from causing further harm to each other and giving everyone the same coping tools they need, Crosby said.
“If we want to be successful, we need to look at every aspect of their life,” he said.
Murray said making sure a veteran’s family is supported, in addition to the veteran, is part of social workers’ playbook. They are taught to focus on the whole system, not just one person.
“I see a lot of people who take care of the issue they have, like alcoholism, but the family doesn’t forget what they went through,” she said.
Murray said they don’t know how large the demand for services will be. The federal money should last for two to three years and data will be collected on the need for services.
Unlike the federal Veterans Administration, the town’s services are available to all veterans, including those who received dishonorable discharges. Until 2021, service members discharged under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy did not receive full benefits.
Crosby said he can help veterans upgrade their discharge so they can receive federal benefits.
“If there’s an issue with a bad discharge and there’s a mental health issue from the war, we can utilize that summary diagnosis to support a reason for upgrading the discharge,” he said.
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Reach reporter Wheeler Cowperthwaite at wcowperthwaite@patriotledger.com.

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