"Without support and funding from Harvest, we would be unable to develop, promote and sustain initiatives to address health issues and work toward a healthier future for Martinsville and Henry County. "
- Barbara Jackman, Executive Director - MHC Coalition for Health and Wellness
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Program aims to help area veterans

July 12, 2011

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

A new program at Piedmont Community Services aims to help local veterans recover from the effects of stress-related or traumatic brain injuries.

Martha Woody, the veterans resource specialist for the program, is determined to be an advocate for those veterans and their families.

“I tend to be like a dog with a bone,” Woody said. “Once I get my teeth in something, I don’t want to let it go. I want to see it through to some kind of solution.”

Woody feels strongly that people who served in the military should receive the services they need, especially those whose lives were shaped in unhealthful ways during their military service.

Woody indicated she will assess a client’s needs and then seek and coordinate whatever services she can for the client to meet those needs.

The new program, offered through the Virginia Wounded Warrior Program, serves those recovering from the effects of stress-related or traumatic brain injuries related to military service who are veterans of any era and are Virginia residents; members of the Virginia National Guard not in active federal service; and Virginia residents in the Armed Forces Reserves not in active federal service. The program also serves their family members, Woody said.

Without giving any identifying information, Woody provided this example of someone she worked to help.

A veteran on disability referred by the Salem VA hospital was living in unstable and stressful housing and had financial and transportation issues, Woody said. The veteran, who was being seen weekly at the Salem VA hospital for post-traumatic stress disorder, found appropriate housing, and Woody worked with other agencies to get financial assistance. STEP (Support to Eliminate Poverty) provided funds for a security deposit, and a gas card was obtained through the Virginia Wounded Warrior Program, she said.

At this point, things seem to be on an even keel for the veteran, Woody said, adding that she hopes they stay that way.

One of the challenges Woody faces is that some people with post-traumatic stress disorder, other stress-related injuries and traumatic brain injuries may not recognize symptoms or the extent of the injuries, or may not be willing to admit they need help, she said. Another is the stigma that still exists about mental health, which makes some people reluctant to seek help.

Here are some other ways Woody said she might be of service:

• Veterans who are dishonorably discharged are not eligible for VA benefits. “Virginia Wounded Warriors Program does not care what kind of discharge you have ... as long as you can prove you are a veteran,” she said.

• Some people need health care and have lost their insurance. Woody may be able to get them help through health clinics or prescription assistance programs.

• People who have unmet mental health needs may be referred to Piedmont Community Services.

• Various programs and agencies have different rules and procedures, which can be confusing. Woody will help the person navigate the systems.

Woody, who began work in her half-time position in February, has been getting the word out about her program, which serves people in Martinsville and the counties of Henry, Patrick and Franklin. She also has served some clients.

Among the services Woody is planning or hopes to offer are: educational/social events for veterans and their families, veterans resource groups that hopefully develop into some type of social support system, and a resource guide, she said.

Woody said as much as she wants to help people in this program, she does not have a magic wand. She added that Piedmont Community Services does not have a homeless shelter.

Woody has a master’s degree in counseling from Virginia Tech and is a registered nurse. She has more than 25 years of experience in counseling, including five years of experience in counseling veterans. She was veterans case worker for former 5th District U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello for 14 months.

Woody’s office is at Piedmont Community Services at 24 Clay St., Martinsville. For more information, it’s best to contact Woody at 632-2108, ext. 1317, or 276-340-2976 (cell); or mwoody@piedmontcsb.org.

For more information about the Virginia Wounded Warrior Program, go to www.WeAreVirginiaVeterans.org.




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