Accessing Mental Health As a Vet, Part 1

Seal of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin
Seal of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Front of the SAMHSA building at 1 Choke Ch...
The Front of the SAMHSA building at 1 Choke Cherry Road in Rockville, Maryland. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my blog about the problems presented by the limited means of obtaining non-crisis access to the Milwaukee County Mental Health System, I contrasted my success in obtaining assistance from the Veterans Administration. This may come as a surprise because so many people living on the streets in Milwaukee are veterans.

Nonetheless I feel there is a level of support for veterans through the VA and community organizations that promotes crisis stabilization and recovery. I will explain the process as I experienced it about six years ago when I approached Vets Place Central. I was an angry, confused man having lost my job, house and marriage in rapid succession. I was becoming desperate after living for a few days in a rodent infested overpriced so-called recovery house. It was time to overcome my reluctance to approaching anything relating to the US military. Despite the chaos that was overcoming me, I still had important documents including my birth certificate and Army discharge papers.

It was easy to locate the Vets Place Central which is located at 34th and Wells Street in the old Family Hospital. When I visited the center I was I had to wait for intake as there were several people ahead of me.  It took all morning to wait my turn and be interviewed and receive a determination about my eligibility for assistance. Among the most puzzling aspects of my situation were my lack of combat related disabilities or substance abuse issues as obvious causes of my homelessness. How can one explain black rage? Does it simply explode?

At the time I had begun falling apart I was apparently quite skilled in my ability to hide my deterioration from friends. I became argumentative, slept less, piled up parking tickets and became increasingly unable to care for myself. These were the things from which I needed to escape.

In the thirteen months that I lived in Vets Place Central I was able to re-establish relationships with my family and friends. I wrote a grant proposal for my older sister who had started a minority health coalition in Buffalo. Although the proposal was unsuccessful, we learned a lot about one another from the process.

I was diagnosed by a VA psychiatrist and opened up for the first time to a psychologist. These were both people who were stationed at Vets Place. In  addition I obtained a primary care provider who helped me begin to control my high blood pressure. My case manager set up an appointment with a free dental clinic for me. A lot of the stress   I had been living with resulted from the way I had neglected my body which in turn had made me worry that I would suffer a heart attack or a stroke. With this pressure relieved I could sit down and map out an employment and education plan.

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