By PHYLLIS HODGES
When Marine Robert Cohen returned from Afghanistan, he shared with his billionaire father, Steven Cohen, personal stories about the difficulty of fellow veterans reintegrating when they returned home. He must have made quite an impression because his father committed $275 million to establish the Cohen Veterans Network. The plan is to establish 25 clinics across the U.S. by 2020 to provide free mental health treatment for post-9/11 (2001) military veterans and their families. Although the clinics make serving post-9/11 veterans a priority, they will assess pre-9/11 veterans who can be best served by their level of targeted outpatient care, based on clinician availability.
Clinic #13 in the U.S. and the first in Florida opened in August in Tampa at 4520 Oak Fair Blvd. (near the fairgrounds) in a partnership with Aspire Health Partners. “We have a mental health crisis,” says Anthony Hassan, the Cohen Veterans Network CEO and president. “After closely examining the post-9/11 veteran population throughout Florida, it was very clear that Tampa was the ideal location to set up our first location in a state with a demonstrated need for mental health care. Soon we will be able to serve veterans and their families across the state via our confidential, online video platform. Our clients will be able to receive tailored, high-quality care from the new clinic or from home in most circumstances.”
Karen Blanchette, director of The Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic (Tampa), says that the high number of veteran suicides — over 20 a day — is an indication of how bumpy transitioning to civilian life can be. Recognizing that money for treatment often is a problem, she says, “We do not want any veteran or family member to not seek help because he or she can’t afford it. If insurance is available, fine, but if not, (the Veteran or family member) should still call us (813-542-5500) to arrange a counseling session. Grant money is available,” she said.
The Cohen clinics are endeavoring to fill mental health service gaps in servicing veterans without preconditions for treatment. For example, the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) and other veteran service organizations do not provide family counseling. Also, many veterans do not qualify for VA health services due to service/income restrictions or dishonorable discharge.
Treatment is available at the Cohen clinics for a variety of mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, adjustment issues, anger, grief & loss, family issues, transitional challenges, relationship problems and child behavioral problems. Hassan said the clinics are not meant to replace the VA for mental health care but to serve as a faster alternative and to cover the entire family. Counseling sessions to determine specific needs are usually scheduled the same week, but if there is an immediate need, such as thoughts of suicide, the caller will get help the same day.
Blanchette said she is pleased that the Tampa clinic is working with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, which has a new “pod” program where veterans are placed in a special section of the jail and their needs assessed. Health professionals will conduct introductory sessions while the client is in jail to encourage the Veteran to seek further help at the Cohen clinic when released.
More information about the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic can be found on the web by searching “Cohen clinic Tampa.”