In his State of the Union speech, President Obama announced that about 34,000 U.S. troops will be returning home this time, next year. Local programs in Kern County are set up already to help those soldiers settle back into civilian life.
Adjusting back to his normal life wasn’t quite what army veteran John Meyer expected.
“It was difficult because you’re use to a certain set, you’re just use to a different atmosphere. So, the adjustment period for me took a little longer,” said Meyer.
Meyer isn’t alone and for soldiers returning home, the Veteran’s Lounge at Bakersfield College is the place where they find services around the community and plenty of comfort.
“You can have conversations with people who can relate to you, who have experienced what you have experienced,“ said Latisha Woodard, Bakersfield College and veteran.
President Obama signed an executive order last year to have 1600 new mental health clinical providers and 300 administrative support staff in place by the end of June 2013. As of January, the V.A. has hired close to 1,100 mental health providers and a little over 200 support staff, which is a welcome change for soldiers dealing with more than just post traumatic stress disorder.
“They also develop some of the more normal mental disorders like depression, and bipolar tends to come out during that military age too. Substance abuse unfortunately, we also provide services for those who have lost their children or their fellow countrymen,“ said Joe Acosta, Bakersfield Veterans Center.
The Bakersfield Vet Center lends a hand to service men and women dealing with finding work and proper housing.
“Everybody doesn’t have a stable situation to come back to,” said Dave Mashore, program director for the Catalyst Foundation.
Counselors work to link veterans to organizations that focus on supportive services and educating them on their benefits.
“There are situations where its very difficult to help people and where there are people falling through the cracks and we work very hard to go out into the streets, getting the word out to let people know veterans and their families what’s available,” said Mashore.