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Minnesota National Guard
VIDEO: KARE 11 -- Minnesota National Guard to receive unique mental health services

By Allen Costantini, KARE 11

Minnesota National Guard Soldiers will have access to mental health professionals free of charge
(Run time 2:14)

The stress of combat in Iraq is obvious The stress of coming home again can be no less dangerous

"Twenty-two months of separation doesn't enhance most relationships," says Minnesota National Guard Chaplain Lieutenant Colonel John Morris "So, single biggest issue for married Soldiers: their marriage relationship, followed by parenting issues There is nothing in the Army arsenal to train you to be married or train you to be a parent"

Minnesota's human contribution to the Iraq War was the longest deployment by any National Guard unit Now, those returned Guardsmen and women will have mental health services more readily available than any group of Soldiers in the past

It comes in the form of a pilot program by TriWest Healthcare Alliance and the Minnesota Guard TriWest serves military personnel in 21 western and Midwestern states TriWest Vice President Scott Celley stood alongside Governor Tim Pawlenty at the Capitol to make the announcement

"The groundbreaking, trailblazing approach that has occurred in Minnesota is now being shared in other places"

Celley says only California has even a limited version of the Minnesota project

It is called the Triwest Embedded Behavioral Health Provider Program Mental health professionals will be placed, or "embedded", at 22 armories around the state They will be present whenever Guard members are there for training for drilling There will be no cost to the Soldiers

Minnesota Guard Adjutant General Larry Shellito hopes the program will remove any stigma for combat veterans dealing mental health issues The mental health professionals will be with the units constantly, face-to-face with the Soldiers and instantly available Chaplain Morris has been instrumental in the program's implementation

"For my young, single Soldiers, we see a lot of depression It is not too hard to understand You've just been to the "SuperBowl" You've done the biggest thing that you may do in your whole life and you've come home and you're in a different place than your peers They've moved on They've been to the mall, while you've been to war and you are stuck in time, so to speak, and need to catch up"

Governor Pawlenty explained that the program is open to all military personnel in the state
"Certainly, there's a near-term need for the returning brigade and the 2,600 from the first brigade combat team, but these services are not limited to those individuals"

The announcement Wednesday morning included the caveat that most returning Soldiers are able to rejoin family and friends with few problems Inevitably, however, as with any war deployment in history, others return needing support and counseling

"We see some chemical abuse by some of our Soldiers, small minority, but it happens," Morris commented "It happens across the country, followed by motor vehicle issues The leading cause of death across the nation is motorcycle accidents for Soldiers So, addressing that kind of need for speed, that need to fill the adrenalin rush of combat with something else"

The program comes at a time when the suicide rates in the Army are at a 26-year high

Photo By Allen Costantini, KARE 11 News

Article source: http://www.kare11.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=267053

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