Veterans and families can receive free counseling services in Prairie du Chien

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By Correne Martin

Wisconsin Vet Centers serve veterans and their families by providing quality individual, marital, family and group counseling sessions at no cost.

The organization’s fully-licensed counselors are combat veterans with master’s degrees. Neil O’Connor, a readjustment counselor from the Madison Vet Center, comes to Prairie du Chien to meet with area veterans every second and last Thursday of each month. Appointments take place at the Crawford County Veterans Service Office, 225 N. Beaumont Rd., Suite 137, Prairie du Chien.

“We work hand-in-hand with the veterans hospital, but we find that, if veterans have to go there for care, they simply don’t,” said Dave Hosking, Vet Center outreach specialist. “So, we have someone travel here to meet with the veterans close to home.”

The latest government reports indicate there are more than 22 million living veterans. Of those men and women, only a small percentage utilize the services of the VA’s Vet Centers, which were created to serve war veterans of any conflict, as well as those veterans who experienced sexual assault or harassment during their military careers.

Vet Center counselors help veterans with the readjustment issues experienced as they leave military service and try to adapt to civilian life. Care  also includes PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) counseling, counseling and referral for alcohol and other drug addictions, job counseling and referral, benefits counseling and referral, bereavement counseling, marriage and couples counseling, family counseling, community education, outreach to special populations and brokering of services with community agencies.

Congress mandated the establishment of Vet Centers in 1979 in order to provide readjustment counseling services to Vietnam era veterans. The program’s success enabled an expansion of services that included veterans who served in conflicts such as WWII and the Korean War, along with any individuals who experienced sexual trauma/assault/harrassment in the military. Today, there are over 300 Vet Centers located throughout the U.S. and its territories providing counseling for past, present and future veterans.

“The bottom line is, we don’t turn anyone away,” Hosking said.

To schedule an appointment in Prairie du Chien, or for more information, call the Madison Vet Center at (608) 264-5342.

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