After more than 30 years of counseling families in Mecklenburg County, Donna Patterson is now making an extra effort to reach out to military families and veterans.
Her counseling center was one of seven Charlotte agencies selected to receive special training to better assist military families.
Patterson’s Family Outreach and Counseling Center is participating in a 14-month project called the Veteran Culture and Clinical Competence Breakthrough Series Collaborative. The goal of VC3 is to train community behavioral health providers in military-informed care, trauma assessment and treatment, and to build a community network of providers to better serve veteran, National Guard and Reserves members and their families.
The program is made possible through the Duke Evidence Based Practice Implementation Center, in partnership with the Center for Child and Family Health and the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress.
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“We hope to identify and help military families, school personnel and children in Charlotte-Mecklenburg,” said Patterson. “Our community as a whole must become more aware of how we can better support military families.”
Patterson believes some children who act out in school are dealing with deployment issues unknown to theschool personnel..
North Carolina has the fourth-largest number of active-duty military personnel and the 10th-largest Reserve force in the country. More than 108,000 children and adolescents in North Carolina have family members that are on active military duty or are National Guard or Reserve members.
Many of those families experience adjustment challenges. Then they face additional challenges getting access to counselors who are aware and sensitive to issues associated with military culture.
The Family Outreach and Counseling Center already offers comprehensive and culturally sensitive mental health services to children and families in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. It even offers in-home counseling sessions for children (covered by Medicaid). Families are given a choice of location. Evening and weekend hours are available.
Patterson believes more training to help military families is needed.
“Many mental health counseling agencies are not prepared to deal with the challenges these families face,” Patterson said.
The center is also accepting referrals for their new Seeking Safety Support Group for Veterans. The program is an integrated treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse. Counseling services can be covered by Tricare military insurance, Medicaid and other insurance.
“We have a lot of homeless veterans with no insurance,” said Patterson. “We are trying to raise scholarship money through grants and donations to help individuals and families with no insurance.”
To learn more about how you can help, go to: www.familyoutreachnc.com. Donations are tax-deductible. The center is at 200 W. Sugar Creek Road near North Tryon Street.
Patterson began her career in 1969 as a social worker assistant in the school system. She has been in private practice since 1982.
Seeing family relationships grow strong has been the most rewarding part of her job, she said.
Patterson said she hopes the stigma of mental health counseling will be reduced as more families make progress. She looks forward to helping veterans and military members, their spouses and children.
For details, call 704-509-9917.