Addressing the Complex Needs of Our Veterans
OneEighty is dedicated to serving our community, including the veteran population. Veterans can have complex needs, including substance use, mental health disorders, and housing insecurities. Current OneEighty Board President Tom Ballinger is a veteran who was deployed for 13 months during Operation Iraqi Freedom. OneEighty board member and Creston Mayor John Hall is a veteran of the Gulf War. Their perspective provides valuable insight into the veteran community and how OneEighty can best serve this population.
A Look at the Harsh Realities Facing Our Veterans
Veterans, the brave individuals who have served our nation, confront challenges far beyond their time in uniform. The statistics reveal a sobering truth about the hurdles they navigate – particularly in terms of substance use, mental health, and homelessness.
- According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in 2019, an estimated 1.7 million veterans aged 18 or older had a substance use disorder in the past year.
- The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH) reports veterans may face challenges such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and chronic pain, contributing to the risk of substance use issues.
- The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reported that, as of 2019, around 11-20% of veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF) experienced PTSD in a given year.
- Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues are prevalent among veterans, often linked to traumatic experiences during service.
- According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Annual Homeless Assessment Report, veterans represented approximately 7.9% of all homeless adults in the United States in 2020.
- Factors contributing to veteran homelessness include poverty, mental health issues, and a lack of social support.
John Hall: On Mental Health Awareness and Alcohol Addiction in the Military
Mayor John Hall elaborated on the prevalence of alcohol addiction among military personnel. “Alcohol addiction was more of the norm, I guess because you go in, a lot of the military people are young, sometimes it’s the first time they ever have extra money, freedom, travel, etc.,” he remarked. The circumstances of young individuals encountering newfound independence and free time often led to social activities centered around alcohol. “There’s not a whole lot to do. If it wasn’t sports-related or something, it’d be playing cards and obviously alcohol, going to the bars, etc.”
In addition to the culture of social alcohol consumption, some veterans may feel there’s a stigma around seeking support from mental health professionals. Thinking back on his own time in the service, Hall said, “Mental health:, I would say it wasn’t really spoken about back then. I’m sure there were places where you could go and get counseling, but it wasn’t promoted.”
Tom Ballinger: On the Challenges of Reintegration
Tom Ballinger recalled how, for him, returning home posed a whole new set of challenges. The lack of clarity on available resources and the hesitancy to trust others made seeking help daunting. “It wasn’t that there was no help. You just didn’t know where the help was,” he explained. “You don’t know where to go, and when you reach out to somebody, you might meet the wrong person to where you feel like they don’t understand or don’t care. You get to the point where you start trying to figure it out yourself, or you just try to bury it.”
That’s where OneEighty enters the picture. As an organization equipped with a wide range of services for those with mental health or substance use challenges, veterans seeking help will be guided through their recovery journey without having to find multiple care providers. Our client-centered approach ensures each person that walks through our doors will find the personalized care they need.
Mayor Hall sees the major issues OneEighty could address as being alcohol abuse and homelessness. OneEighty is ready to help those members of the community, including veterans, both with finding permanent housing and connecting people to resources that will allow them to sustain their housing. On top of that, our addiction and substance use services provide a wide variety of options for people struggling with alcohol or other substance use, including:
- Substance use counseling
- Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)
- Group addiction treatment
- Medical services
- Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
- Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)
- Residential facilities
- Recovery housing
- Peer recovery
There are opportunities for OneEighty to improve our offerings for veterans, as well. One such place for growth is hiring counselors with experience in the military of their own. Ballinger is particularly excited about that area, pointing out that “Veteran to veteran, they can relate because they’ve been there, and they know. In that case, the veteran may be more willing to open up about their service.” Along those lines, Mayor Hall agreed that familiarity with veteran-specific issues is key, and suggested OneEighty could rely on him and other veterans to share their experiences as a starting point. “How to break the ice, or how some of your experiences relate to their experiences,” Hall suggested.
Both Ballinger and Hall agree that OneEighty is well-positioned to expand their services based on what we already offer. In Ballinger’s words, “Right now, OneEighty might not be equipped to do these things, but with the strength that OneEighty has in Wayne County and Holmes County, I think that’s a good place to start.”
Ballinger’s experience as a police officer was what led to his first experience with OneEighty. He was able to rely on our services in a domestic violence situation. “When I pulled up in a police cruiser, a lady came out, took the mom, took the kids, and I didn’t have to do anything else. They took care of them and put them in a safe place. They got them the aid they needed, they got them the food they needed and everything else. I didn’t have to do a thing. And I thought, boy, this is impressive.” When he had the opportunity to join the board, he took the chance to get involved. As a board member, Ballinger has been able to learn more of what OneEighty offers to the community. “It’s been a good experience. Met a lot of good people with big hearts. And they’re there for the right reasons.”
That experience led Ballinger to recommending Mayor Hall join the OneEighty Board as well. “I knew the name,” Mayor Hall recalled. “I knew Bobbi Douglas’ name. So I did a little reading, and thought yeah, this would be something that I’d like to attach my name to.”
Ballinger and Hall’s dedication to veterans’ needs reinforce OneEighty’s commitment to initiatives that address hurdles faced by our veterans. By establishing these tailored support systems, OneEighty aims to create a space where veterans can actively participate in their journey toward recovery – ensuring they receive the comprehensive, compassionate care they deserve.
We’re here to support you.
We help people change direction with programs for addiction, domestic violence, rape crisis, mental health, housing, and prevention and education. At OneEighty, we actively support an evidence-based approach to sustainable recovery from trauma and addiction – restoring dignity and purpose, reimagining potential, and rebuilding lives. OneEighty offers counseling programs, intensive addiction treatment programs, group addiction treatment, residential services, victim services, recovery housing, and peer recovery.
For those encountering a substance use crisis please call OneEighty’s Substance Use Crisis hotline available 24 hours per day, 365 days per year at 330-466-0678. For other resources, click the links below: