A group of New York state social workers wants more funding for a veterans’ mental-health program.
The Veterans Mental Health Training Initiative educates community providers about veteran-specific issues and cultural competency for working with them. The group seeks $100,000 to fund a position to link the Joseph P. Dwyer Veterans Peer Support Project with the clinicians in the initiative.
Amelia Lochner-Malave, director of operations and development at the National Association of Social Workers New York Chapter, said it’s important to learn how to help providers.
“So, this is going to incorporate a few things,” she said, “creating an evaluation of clinicians on intake, seeing where they are in terms of their knowledge and cultural competency with veterans’ issues.”
She said the person in this role would also create a baseline curriculum for clinicians working with veterans, but acknowledged not everyone sees the value of mental-health services if they haven’t had experience with them. The state of New York already has invested several million dollars to expand the Veterans Peer Support Project statewide.
While clinicians are trained to address numerous mental-health issues, Lochner-Malave noted that this program goes beyond that. Particularly, she said, she thinks improving cultural competency can increase the trust a veteran might have for a clinician.
“You cannot meet the needs of that person if they’re truly speaking almost like a different language, which is true, you know – the veterans have their own culture and their own language,” she said. “And you need to be able to respect and be aware of that before you can address any of these other issues.”
She said it’s especially important to show humility and a deeper understanding when covering tough topics such as suicide prevention. A 2022 New York Health Foundation report found the rate of suicides among New York veterans has stabilized in recent years, but there are signs the progress is fragile.
Edwin is a reporter and producer in North Tonawanda, New York. He’s previously reported for the Niagara Gazette and the Ithaca Times. Edwin got an early start in radio interning for WBFO-88.7FM, NPR’s Buffalo affiliate. In 2018, he graduated from SUNY Buffalo State College with a B.A. in Journalism, and in 2022, graduated from Syracuse University with an M.S. in Communications.