On Wednesday, May 11, 2011, William James College clinical psychology doctoral candidate and former Marine Greg Matos testified at a statehouse briefing to support a program called Train Vets to Treat Vets®. The program, inspired by a study conducted by a special state commission and developed as a proposal at the request of the Massachusetts legislature, is now under consideration in the state Senate.
"The military offers us the opportunity to serve a greater purpose. As a veteran, now my service is the clinical work I do with vets. It's the dismantling of mental health stigma that naturally occurs when a returning veteran receives treatment from one of their own," says Matos. The briefing was hosted by Representative James E. Vallee, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Veterans' and Federal Affairs, and Matos was one of several veterans advocating for Train Vets to Treat Vets®, a proposed partnership between the Department of Veterans Services and William James College.
Briefing hosted by Representative James E. Vallee, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Veterans' and Federal Affairs
As partners, the two organizations would join forces to identify veterans in greatest need of mental health care in the state and place William James College graduate interns who are also veterans into veterans’ outreach services centers. The interns would then be supervised by both the staff of the centers and the faculty of William James College.
"The hope is that this partnership will not only help provide much needed culturally sensitive services to veterans traumatized by their combat experience, but will also offer veterans who are dedicated to helping fellow service men and women, the skills and credentials necessary to make it a viable career and life's work," said Dr. Nicholas Covino, President of William James College, who spoke at the briefing about how the partners propose to work together.
Dr. Nicholas Covino, President of William James College
The military has its own culture, according to Matos, and to treat a veteran, it is important to understand how deeply that culture impacts their lives and their ability to heal. Matos is currently completing his doctorate in clinical psychology at William James College and is returning to active duty as a Navy Psychologist after graduation. Matos was a Marine sergeant and the recipient of the Bronze Star with Combat Valor and the State Department's Award for Heroism.
Joining Matos was Marine Corps Colonel James "Jimmy" Flynn of Medford. Flynn, a twice-wounded veteran shared his personal story of the impact military service and his belief in the importance of veterans working therapeutically with other veterans. Flynn received the Purple Heart and the Navy Achievement Medal Combat Action Ribbon for his service.
Marine Corps Corporal James "Jimmy" Flynn
The proposed Train Vets to Treat Vets® program evolved from evidence gathered and reported by the Commonwealth's Special Commission to Study and Investigate the Hidden Wounds of War on Massachusetts Service Members. Published January 5, 2009, the report outlined a continuum of significant issues for returning veterans, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and the associated problems of substance abuse, feelings of hopelessness, lack of employment, relationship problems and, in the most severe situations, suicide. Studies show that more than a third of our returning service men and women are experiencing such repercussions.
In response to the findings of the Commission, in June 2010, the Massachusetts General Court requested an analysis of how best to create a program of behavioral health career development for returning veterans. It joined forces with William James College, which is already dedicated to training veterans to treat other veterans as a participant in the federal Yellow Ribbon Scholarship program. The Yellow Ribbon Program offers academic scholarships to veterans and other prospective psychologists who wish to devote their careers to caring for the mental health needs of servicemen and women.