Free Mental Health Care for Veterans Thanks to New Partnership

Free Mental Health Care for Veterans Thanks to New Partnership

Veteran suicides are on the rise, and experts say the problem isn't going away. A new partnership will provide treatment to veterans and their families suffering from mental illnesses for free.

More than 100,000 people in Southwest Florida will be able to apply.

There are wounds of war we can see and there are wounds that are invisible. The vets suffer alone. Loebs, who served in the U.S. Army for 17 years and fought in Iraq, is one of them.

It was heartbreaking to hear my own story and realize that you don't get continued care once you go home. It was just what I needed," Loebs said.

Veterans Affairs says 6,000 vets take their own lives every year. Florida has 500 suicides each year.

Veterans in Southwest Florida will now be helped for free through Home Base Florida and the David Lawrence Center.

There are many veterans who experience mental and emotional health challenges including post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, anger, grief and loss, transitional challenges and addiction.

“Over 110,000 veterans live here in five counties, but a significant portion of them live in Collier and Lee counties, so these are the two top places that we see our veterans live,” said Michael Allard, CEO of Home Base Florida.

The challenge now is to convince our veterans in need of care to accept it. „I hope they can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It is not necessary for us to remain in that dark period. When you dedicate yourself to self-care and get the treatment, there is a light at the end of the tunnel," said Loebs.

The burden of returning home from war can be difficult for a veteran and his or her family. The David Lawrence Center wants to help. As of now, so does Collier County.

"The veterans sitting here thought the same thing. We are thinking about those ten individuals with whom we served or whom I commanded, etc. The programs just make it easier to make sure they get the best chance at success," said Commissioner Rick LoCastro.

In the Air Force, LoCastro served for 24 years, achieving the rank of Colonel. Mental health services are crucial when veterans come home.

"There is no guarantee, it depends on the individual, but when there is no support like this available around a veteran and their families who need help, their chances are very slim," explains LoCastro.

LoCastro confirmed state funding for veteran homes and an expansion of the center.