Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano, joined by mental health and veterans affairs’ officials, participated in a national Veterans Mental Health Conference at Adelphi University yesterday, to discuss ongoing challenges to the mental and emotional well-being of veterans, especially those who’ve recently returned from Iraq or Afghanistan.
The conference, hosted by the Veterans Health Alliance of Long Island – a project of the Mental Health Association of Nassau County – drew nationwide attendance from veterans organizations as far away as Connecticut, North Carolina and Washington DC, and several counties throughout upstate New York.
A series of workshops held throughout the conference focused on topics such as employment challenges for veterans; military sexual trauma; issues of caregivers; PTSD treatment; moral injury; peer support and building veteran’s coalitions.
During opening remarks, County Executive Edward P. Mangano stated, “Our nation is home to so many American heroes; and they deserve everything we are able to do for them – for their mental health, physical health and for their entire well-being and the well-being of their families.” He added, “Without people such as our service men and women, who selflessly leave their families and their homes to protect the people of the United States we would not have the many freedoms that we enjoy today.”
Dr James Dolan, Director of Community Outreach for the Nassau County Office of Mental Health, Chemical Dependency and Developmental Disabilities Services, referred to the veterans and active duty personnel as “heroic, courageous and a force for goodness.” He then spoke briefly about the indebtedness we each have to our military veterans and active duty personnel and that “while we can never really, fully repay that debt, we should always continue to try.”
The conference was organized by John Javis, Director of Special Projects for the Mental Health Association of Nassau County; Lauren Haagemann, project coordinator for the Veterans Health Alliance of Long Island, and Scott Castillo Deputy Director of Veterans Services for Nassau County.
The approximately 200 attendees at the conference listened to a key note address by a representative from the Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America, speaking about some of the challenges faced in reaching out to younger veterans who are less inclined to join in on organized events.
Ralph Esposito, Executive Director of Veterans Services for Nassau County, said Nassau County has the second highest number of veterans in New York State. Together with Suffolk County, Long Island is second only to San Diego in the percent of veterans to the population.
The MHA is running 3 anonymous peer-to-peer support groups for veterans and active duty personnel and plans to start one for female veterans.
Since taking office in 2010, the Mangano administration has enhanced services for veterans. They have established 42 homes, located on Mitchel Field, to provide affordable housing for veterans and their families and an additional 18 homes for active-duty military personnel. Working with Congressman Peter King, they developed the Homes for the Brave Program that seeks to use tax-exempt bonds to buy foreclosed homes from banks, restore those homes and then rent them to veterans. The County also transferred land in Hicksville to Homes For Our Homecoming Heroes, a not-for-profit who is constructing a home for a veteran returning from the Middle East. And the County Veterans Services Center continues to provide free door-to-door transportation to bring Nassau veterans to the medical clinic at the VA in Northport.
“Our fallen military and their families deserve the respect of a grateful nation and that is exactly what they will get in Nassau County,” Mangano said. “Thank you and God Bless.”