Helping veterans is a fine thing to do. But by helping veterans, Modesto and Stanislaus County are also helping themselves – and we like that idea, too.
The county and city will provide nearly $400,000 between them each year to finance a “one-stop” veterans center in Modesto, preferably on a main corridor with easy access to public transportation. Once up and running, the center will include offices for the Agency on Aging, Veterans Services, the county’s mental health services and others important to the estimated 27,000 veterans living in Stanislaus County. At the center, they’ll be able to find help for small problems (needing a ride, an appointment, advice) and large ones (homelessness, drug abuse, mental illness).
Most veterans are well-adjusted contributors to society. But more than a few need help. An estimated 40 percent of veterans suffer mental illness or have substance abuse issues; each night an estimated 49,900 veterans are without a shelter of their own; there are 140,000 veterans are our prisons and jails. The need is clear.
The money from the city and county isn’t a payment, it’s an investment. With the newly formed Veterans Foundation, they’re investing in solutions; most importantly, they’re investing in the veterans. The key to success is making certain that veterans know help is available and where to find it.
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“We had so many veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq who were suffering and needing benefits,” said Veterans Foundation executive director Becky Crow, noting that many veterans don’t ask. “They have benefits available, but those benefits don’t have high visibility. … We’re bringing all of these services together. You’ve heard the old saying, ‘Each of us is really bright, but together we’re brilliant’ – well, bringing veterans together is the essence of what we’re going to be doing. We’ll be working together.”
The Veterans Foundation has promised $125,000 a year – a big number, but Crow is undaunted.
She spent her first career breaking ground in the Air Force as the first woman in its security forces (“They didn’t even have a uniform for me”). Now she’s breaking new ground for her brothers and sisters in arms.
“We’re not aware of anyone in California doing this,” Crow said. “We’re pretty special. It’s very positive for Modesto.”
We’re glad our city and county leaders are making this investment. Once the center is up and running, it will pay dividends well into the future.