Mental health program opens to help veterans, first responders

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - For many veterans returning home is only the start of a new battle, one where all the wounds and scars are never seen and often ignored.

"You have a population of people who run towards trouble and that wreaks havoc and wears you down," said Lt. Col. Edward Bush with the Louisiana National Guard.

Depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder are just some of the mental health problems that face service members and first responders when they leave duty.  Baton Rouge General Hospital's new Welcome Home Wellness Program hopes to address those problems and offer help through group and individual counseling, anger management and substance abuse treatment.

"Before they hit rock bottom, we want to help them get into care," said licensed clinical social worker Juliet Catrett.

The intensive outpatient program will offer also offer its services to first responders, who often face violence, pain and death on a daily basis.  Former Baton Rouge Police Chief Jeff LeDuff says there is a great need for resources like this, summing it up in a simple but poignant way.

"If I had a place like this to take away the dead faces that live in my brain, I'd be a happier man," said LeDuff.

As a behavior health officer in the Louisiana National Guard and a licensed clinical social worker, Capt. Angela Huval sees the need for mental health wellness every day.

"A resource like this is very beneficial.  A lot of our national guardsman are citizen soldiers and they don't meet the eligibility for veteran services. So, there is a gap in services," said Huval.

Huval and other officers also hope a facility like this will show that it's ok to ask for help.

"We all need help. To raise your hand and say that you needing help is not a sign of weakness. It is not a sign of failure," said Bush.  "A facility like this should be part of the job."

If you are a loved one is experiences signs of mental stress like anxiety, depression or anger, you can contact the Welcome Home program for help at 225-387-7652. 

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