by Jeannine Yeomans
The Pathway Home is a nationally–acclaimed, residential treatment program in Yountville for Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans who have returned home suffering from the “invisible wounds of war,” severe Post Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury.
The generous people of the Napa Valley have been a key to the success of this non-profit. While donations come from the greater Bay Area and across the country, Napa Valley residents have provided core support through their financial contributions and volunteer efforts to help the veterans return to a healthy civilian life.
Veterans commit suicide at the rate of 22 a day in our country. This is the number reported by Veterans Affairs. Some experts fear the actual numbers are even higher. Active-duty suicides have outnumbered combat deaths for the past several years.
An estimated 500,000 U.S. military who served in the war on terror since 2001, have come home with severe Post Traumatic Stress (PTS), which can lead to suicide, severe depression, anger, guilt, alcohol and
drug addiction, unlawful behavior and other problems.
This is a national public health crisis that affects not only our veterans, but also their families and communities.
FINDING A SOLUTION
The Pathway Home was founded in 2008 by CEO, Fred Gusman, who chose the location on the peaceful and protected grounds of the Veterans Home in Yountville, which provides the atmosphere of a collegial rather than a hospital setting.
Veterans stay in the residential building (rented by the state for $1 per year) for an average of 14 weeks of therapy and innovative care at no charge to the veterans or their families.
Almost all of those admitted over the years had considered suicide and 60% had tried to kill themselves. Seventy three percent had quit or been fired from a job. Eighty percent had tried school, of which 83% dropped out.
More than 455 veterans have graduated successfully from TPH and they report a 91% satisfaction rate upon return to civilian life after their treatment.
The Pathway Home is the only residential program of its kind in the United States, designed to serve only Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans and it has been recognized by the Joint Chiefs of Staffs office as a model program for best practice in treatment of veterans with PTS.
UNIQUE KEYS TO SUCCESS
The Pathway Home attributes two keys to its success:
• Innovative expert care
• Community involvement
The Pathway Home has shifted from the “normal” and traditional methods of treatment by providing a multi-disciplinary, comprehensive, integrated, community model of care.
A safe, supportive, respectful and challenging therapeutic community is provided for those who have conquered the many stressors of war, but find themselves experiencing severe problems upon return to civilian life.
TPH provides a wide array of evidence-based therapy in groups and individually. This includes arduous trauma therapy, lasting at least four weeks, as well as therapy for moral injury, addiction, anger management, family counseling, restorative and creative therapies including art, creative writing, yoga, music and humor.
The variety of expert psychological, social, and rehabilitation services provided by The Pathway Home generally do not exist in traditional VA hospital, residential PTS programs.
Pathway Board Chair, Dorothy Lind Salmon, says
community involvement is the “secret glue” in the healing process.
TPH has formed strong partnerships with community
members, businesses and other nonprofit programs while bringing individuals, organizations and the local community into the circle of healing.
This collaboration is a huge key in helping combat veterans realize they are valued members of the community and that the community wants to take an active role in helping them rebound from their war experience.
Volunteers help The Pathway Home with fundraising and also provide a wide array of recreational activities including fishing, social events, bowling, hiking and art classes.
NAPA ROTARY CLUB
Napa Rotary Club and its 120 members have chosen TPH as their primary service project and have proven to be a critical support arm.
Each year, the club raises more than $80,000 for TPH in its Rotary Ride for Veterans. Rotary also donates equipment such as bicycles and vans. The service-club members offer an array of pro bono professional and legal services to TPH veterans, including employment, dental care and mentoring.
The only thing keeping The Pathway Home from helping more of our nation’s heroes is funding.
The program relies 100% on private donations and grants and receives no government or taxpayer support. While The Pathway Home works with, and gets referrals from, Veterans Affairs, supporters believe we cannot rely on government alone to help our military veterans.
Donations immediately help the program and its residents and an increase in funds would help the program grow to serve more and to help start similar programs in other communities.
All donors, staff and volunteers who support TPH are united in the belief that the greatest casualty of all would be to ignore the problem and do nothing about this national health crisis.
Zack Skiles, U.S. Marines
I deployed with the Marines to Iraq in January of 2003 for the initial invasion. The word was we’d be home before summer, but we were there 10 months. I was told our unit took over 270 small arms attacks and roughly 35 scud attacks. To be honest though, I stopped counting after 30, because I didn’t want to test fate.
When I got back I had some pretty major symptoms of post-traumatic stress, insomnia and nightmares. Five years after my honorable discharge I was homeless in San Francisco and stealing whatever food I could to eat. I didn’t just get out and give up. I went to work, I went to school and I did my best to build a new life. Unfortunately, my symptoms got in my way. When years of failure are stacking up behind you, it’s just logical to want to end the suffering, which was definitely where I was at.
The Pathway Home gave me the best psycho-education, the best therapeutic experiences and gave me the very foundation on which I plant my feet today.
TPH works with each patient as an individual to establish their specific needs in order to make the most of their time in the program. It is the only program in the country providing this kind of care.
It is because of The Pathway Home that I was able to return to school, graduating Summa Cum Laude in Psychology in spring of this year at John F. Kennedy University. I’ve been able to establish therapeutic programs of my own with other combat veterans from South Sudan to San Francisco based on my experience at The Pathway Home.
It changed my life and continues to change the lives of every veteran who walks through their doors, because that’s what they do. They’re game changers.
Gary Belush, Army
Gary Belush, who served three tours with the U.S. Army in Iraq, said that when he came home, he was stuck, and in denial. He considered suicide twice, had family problems and spent time sitting alone in his garage.
“But I came to Pathway and it gave me a way to live life differently and to manage my fears. I wish I could say there was an app for that,” Belush said (to laughter) when he graduated from The Pathway Home.
How You Can Help
Or the web at thepathwayhome.org
Click on the “donate” button Or mail a contribution to:
Mike Horak, Development Director
The Pathway Home
PO Box 3930 | Yountville, Ca. 94599
The Pathway Home, Inc. is a registered 501(c)3