PASCO -- Tri-City combat veterans now have another option for finding counseling, support or just a friendly, understanding ear.
Counselors for the Walla Walla Vet Center are taking appointments in Pasco for combat veterans and their families, or veterans who experienced sexual trauma in the military.
Dave Beebe, the center's director, told the Herald that the Vet Center is using office space at the Columbia Basin Veterans Coalition, where he and two of the center's counselors can travel from Walla Walla and see Tri-City veterans closer to home.
Veterans and their families can make an appointment for the Pasco office by calling the center in Walla Walla at 509-526-8387.
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The Vet Center provides to combat veterans and their families what officials call "readjustment counseling," which can include treatment for mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, or support for spouses and children helping a veteran ease back into civilian life.
Counselors also help veterans who have experienced sexual trauma.
The people who work at the center are combat veterans themselves, so veterans who come in know they'll be talking to someone who understands where they've been and what they're experiencing, Beebe said.
The Walla Walla Vet Center is the first such center in Southeast Washington. Until now, the nearest veterans' centers were in Yakima and Spokane.
The center isn't part of the VA Medical Center, but it is funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The Vet Center program started in 1979 with Vietnam veterans who were experiencing post-traumatic stress, but had a difficult time finding help through the VA because the disorder wasn't well-understood at the time.
The Vietnam veterans started sharing their experiences with each other and found that helped.
The center serves veterans from Walla Walla, Columbia, Garfield, Asotin, Benton and Franklin counties in Washington, and Umatilla, Morrow, Union and Wallowa counties in Oregon.
Beebe said that sharing space with the Columbia Basin Veterans Coalition offers the benefit of being able to refer veterans who need help applying for benefits a resource in the same building.
"We've had a really good relationship with them," Beebe said of the coalition. "They have been good about referring veterans to us."
Combat veterans who want a more anonymous form of help can call a 24/7 combat call center at 877-WAR-VETS or 877-927-8387. The hotline is staffed by combat veterans who can lend an ear, or refer veterans to crisis services if needed.