Worcester-based Veterans Inc. puts new focus on mental health
By Alli Knothe, WORCESTER TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
WORCESTER — After a three-month “honeymoon period” following her return home from a tour of duty in Iraq, Lisa Prochnow had to reintegrate herself into civilian life.
“Like for most veterans, the transition was pretty hard,” she said. “I had to relearn how to take care of my kids.”
Battling anxiety and dealing with relationships, the single mother of four eventually got on her feet. Since May, Ms. Prochnow has been working at Veterans Inc. and is charged with helping other local veterans return to life after combat.
In about six months, she and her co-workers have reached out to more than 100 veterans through a new program whose biggest focus is connecting them with resources to deal with any mental health issues they may be suffering from.
She recalled one woman who recently returned home and was suicidal, but with the right help was able to turn her life around, focus on her family and buy a home.
“We’re giving them the message that they don’t have to do it themselves,” said Bruce Ware, an outreach specialist who works with Ms. Prochnow and served in the National Guard for 24 years.
Both were on hand Monday when Attorney General Martha Coakley visited Veterans Inc. headquarters on Grove Street to meet with the organization’s leaders, Vincent Perrone and Denis Leary, as well as state Sen. Michael O. Moore, D-Millbury.
Mr. Leary said the new program is in full force and is on track to help 400 people by July 2015.
Veterans Inc. has been in operation since the early 1990s and has provided assistance for more than 50,000 veterans and their families. Its main goal is to eradicate homelessness among veterans in the region.
The new program is funded through an Access to Mental Health Services grant. The grant was set up by the attorney general’s office with state money acquired through a roughly $1.7 million class-action insurance settlement.
About $1 million from the settlement was paid to the state, and of that, $500,000 “will be used to promote initiatives designed to assist Massachusetts military veterans, seniors, or residents with mental health conditions, or to address unlawful marketing practices targeted at such individuals,” the attorney general’s office wrote in a news release in July.
The attorney general’s office would not specify the amount of the grant for Veterans Inc. or the four other organizations that received funding.
The other organizations include the Bedford VA Research and Education Corp., The National Alliance on Mental Illness, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, and Screening for Mental Health.