LAGUNA HILLS – Military veterans and their families have a new resource for mental health services in Laguna Hills with the launch of a local nonprofit organization.
Strength in Support is a nonprofit group that provides free or low-cost mental health counseling services for veterans and their family members, mentoring from older veterans and workshops focusing on subjects like taxes, job-searching or even golf outings in Mission Viejo, governing board Vice President Jill Boultinghouse said.
“We’re not just offering talk therapy,” she said. “We’re trying to find anything that might help. We know that not all healing happens in the (therapy) room, sometimes it’s an activity or organization we point our patients toward.”
Fees for workshops or therapy max out at about $30, and mentoring is always free, Boultinghouse said. The goal is to not turn anyone away, and about 90 percent of all services given by the organization so far have been free, she said.
Many veterans hesitate to seek out mental health services after returning from duty, board President Evan Fewsmith said, because any mention of therapy on their record may hurt their chances for future military positions or jobs. Many seek help in private practices, where they can keep any treatment discreet and preserve future prospects.
“The need for this is so desperate,” Fewsmith said, adding that while the U.S. military tries hard to help its veterans, the organization is understaffed. “They’re just being destroyed, and the families are just being destroyed…It is just a crisis of such a large scale.”
Boultinghouse and Fewsmith, both marriage and family therapists, said they have the capacity to serve at least 20 families and plan to expand soon. Strength in Support is made up of five board members, two military advisors and one clinical social worker.
The organization is recruiting families who need help and is reaching out to the community to find volunteers, like licensed mental health professionals and possible leaders for educational workshops, Boultinghouse said.
“As much as this is about the veterans, this is also about the community,” Boultinghouse said. “I think Orange County is a very patriotic area, and I think a lot of people might like to help out with something like this.”
Boultinghouse said she was first approached by the wife of a military sniper 10 years ago, and has been helping veterans and family members for free since then. She and Fewsmith discussed forming a nonprofit group for a number of years, she said. Funding became available and the group was formed earlier this year. A launch party was held in Mission Viejo June 22.
For more information on the organization or to make a donation, go tostrengthinsupport.org or call 949-451-8379.
Contact the writer: 949-454-7373 or firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @MeganNicolai