Counselors to be posted at National Guard armoriesby Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio
Minnesota National Guard soldiers returning from war will have free access to mental health counselors based at their armories.
St. Paul, Minn. — The 2,600 members of the Minnesota National Guard who returned from extended deployment to Iraq will have greater access to mental health services.
The Minnesota Army National Guard has reached an agreement with TriWest Health Care Alliance to put mental health services at 22 Minnesota National Guard armories around the state.
TriWest is a privately-held corporation that works with the Defense Department to provide services to soldiers in 21 states.
Mental health professionals will do onsite consultations and make referrals to any Guard member. Minnesota Army National Guard Chaplain John Morris says the goal is to encourage married and single soldiers to get help.
"Nothing is in the Army arsenal to train you to be married, or train you to be a parent. The flip side of that, for my young single soldiers, we see a lot of depression," Morris said. "Not to hard to understand. You've been to the 'Super Bowl,' so you've done the biggest thing that you may do in your whole life. And you come home and you're in a different place than your peers."
Morris says one key to the program is having mental health professionals available in the local armories.
"We hope that we destigmatize asking for help. And we hope that by providing a familiar face from a local community, we not only destigmatize seeking help but we also make help that much more accessible," says Morris, "because people are comfortable with somebody in their own community versus driving to the Twin Cities, Duluth, St. Cloud, Fargo where there's a VA facility."
The program will also consult with military commanders on mental health issues. Mental health professionals will also participate in monthly unit training.