Thursday March 09, 2017
For veterans, their family members and supporters, the South Burlington Vet Center has been a valuable resource in the community for decades. However, if you are looking for those services now, you won’t find the Vet Center at its old location. After 30 years on Dorset Street, the Vet Center is now located at 19 Gregory Drive, Suite 20, next to the South Burlington Police Station. The Vet Center made the move last spring and commemorated its grand opening in the fall.
“The place on Dorset was great. It felt homey, but we needed a space that worked better for our staff composition,” explained Marie Milford, the director of the Vet Center. “We’ve gotten a lot of great responses from most people.”
“We’re able to build a relationship with the police department, too, which is a good thing.”
The new layout is all on one floor, the previous location had two, so communication is more fluid for its core staff. The space accommodates counselor, outreach, and administration offices, a playroom, kitchen,, two conference rooms, an extra office, for professionals beyond key staff such as Burlington VA Health Clinic staff and a service representative who assists in filing claims.
Usually Vet Centers are relatively small and more community-based, in the interest of the people they serve, Milford said.
There are two Vet Centers in the state; the other is in White River Junction. There are 300 Vet Centers around the country, including the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guam, and Hawaii.
“We go to different areas in Vermont. We go to Saint Albans, Barre, Norwich, and Plattsburg. Once a week, staff members go to provide services in those areas,” Milford said. White River Junction provides services to southern Vermont and nearby New Hampshire regions.
Services entail individual counseling, couple/family counseling, group counseling, and outreach for veterans, their families, and active duty members; they’re offered at no cost.
Veteran eligibility includes those who were deployed to a war zone, who experienced military sexual trauma, who provided direct emergent medical care or mortuary services of the casualties of war, and those who manned aerial vehicle in support of operations in combat zones or in areas of hostility. Some have returned from Iraq, Afghanistan, Desert Storm, and Vietnam. It is a close resource for the Air National Guard and Vermont Air National Guard as well.
As an added layer of readjustment and understanding with veterans and families, some staff demonstrate firsthand experience.
“A lot of veterans say they like coming here because they are able to talk to other veterans,” Milford said. “They feel like they don’t have to explain a lot. You know the lingo. They like the fact that we have veterans on staff who can understand and relate to what they are saying.”
“I was deployed to Iraq as a mental health specialist where I was also counseling,” she added. “When I got back from Iraq, I decided to stay working with veterans because I understand how it feels to come home and feel alone. I wanted to continue helping.”
Readjustment Councilor Melinda Rouille is an Navy non- ombat veteran, and Veteran Outreach Specialist Allston (Joe) Gilmond is a Desert War veteran.
In its commitment to making a difference, Vet Center staff is continual in its outreach efforts. They have attended schools, fairs, Veterans Memorial Park, the VFW, and Church Street to let new faces know the door’s always open.
“If someone is not sure they’re eligible for services, just call,” Milford said. “Even if they’re not eligible for our services, we can lead them to somewhere else like the VA Clinic to provided services.”
The Vet Center offers A Women’s Veteran’s group. MST group, iRest Yoga Nidra, and movie night. There’s also a homeless Veteran Stand Down on April 8. Call 802-865-3319 for more informaiton.
The Vet Center is open Monday through Thursday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Upon request, the Vet Center will provide services after normal work hours and/or weekends.
SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent