At Ease USA, a program created in partnership with Lutheran Family Services to assist active military, veterans, and their loved ones in receiving treatment for post-traumatic stress (PTSD) and related disorders, has a lot to be proud of. Since 2009, the program, which offers counseling services, group support programs, and community support, has helped more than 200 clients across the state with amazing results. According to program evaluation results, 100 percent of clients have reported a reduction in risk behaviors.
“The idea of At Ease is to remove as many of the obstacles as possible that prevent active military, veterans, and their families from getting care for post-traumatic stress disorder and other behavioral health issues,” At Ease Founder Scott Anderson said. “It is estimated that only 30% to 35% of military entitled to VA benefits for PTSD ever pursue getting help. What we want to do is to make sure that the people who need care, get it, and particularly that they get care that it is well-documented and proven to be effective.”
The stigma of receiving care for mental health issues is often a barrier that prevents many military personnel from getting the care they need. In an effort to reduce this barrier, At Ease is 100 percent confidential. Because the program is comprised of therapists who volunteer their time, low costs allow At Ease to offer its services at cost effective rates or for free. No one is turned away due to their ability to pay. Another key feature of the program is that unlike other civilian organizations, everyone who works with At Ease has a military connection which allows them to better understand the needs of the client.
“The military has a very distinct culture, its own language really, so to have a civilian try to understand that and still be able to move the therapeutic process forward can be very challenging,” At Ease Program Supervisor Paul Greenwell said. “Having a past military affiliation is just one more way we’re able to reach these folks and really make a connection quickly.”
As more and more troops return from deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, the need for mental health services will continue to increase. Anderson cites that somewhere around 400,000 troops will return home with some form of post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, or both. Combined with the number of loved ones who suffer from “virtual or non-combative PTSD” the number of people seeking mental health care could easily reach a million people, according to Anderson.
“There are just too many people for any one resource to serve them all. We have great respect for the services that the VA offers. We apply a lot of the same research and use a lot of the same treatment modalities. We all have to work together because there’s going to be a tsunami of people needing care and we’ve got to serve them and we’ve got to serve them as quickly as possible,” Anderson said.
In order to serve the flood of people needing services, At Ease is hopeful that funding will allow them to expand services across the state into more rural communities. In addition, the Grand Island office will be launching a teletherapy program where clients can go to any hospital and receive therapy by video conference. At Ease will also be implementing a Web-based, Skype-type of teletherapy where clients will be able to receive therapy from their own homes.
“We’re hoping that by allowing people to receive therapy from the confidentially and anonymity of their own homes that we’re going to be able to reach a lot more people than through conventional therapy. It will also help us reach into more remote, rural communities,” Anderson said.
Between the breadth of programs, the reach of services, and the commitment of the staff, At Ease is dedicated to making a difference for military families and removing the obstacles of receiving help for post-traumatic stress disorder.
“The people who are working in this program, chose to work for At Ease because they really care about the veterans. They have the expertise in mental health, they understand the issues, and they also have a passion for working with veterans and military families – that’s number one,” Greenwell said. “We recognize where they’ve been and the struggles that were a part of that. We really do have a heart for serving them.”
At Ease will be celebrate its accomplishments and look toward the future at its Annual Luncheon on Monday, January 30 at the Centurylink Center. The luncheon, which serves the dual purpose of bringing awareness to the program and helping to break down the stigma of receiving help for post-traumatic stress, will feature former Staff Sergeant Sal Giunta, USA, as the keynote speaker. Mr. Giunta is the first living American to receive the nation’s highest decoration for valor, the Medal of Honor, for actions that occurred since the Vietnam War. Tickets, for the At Ease Annual Luncheon, which cost $50, can be purchased by visiting www.lfsneb.org.
Learn more about At Ease USA by visiting http://www.ateaseusa.org/.