Texas post’s counseling program ‘making a difference’

Texas post’s counseling program ‘making a difference’

In attempt to bring mental health services not just to veterans, but to their families as well, a Texas American Legion post has teamed with a local counseling agency to provide free help for those veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues.

Laramore-Osborne American Legion Post 100 in Royse City has teamed with Higher Hopes Counseling – which offers both state-licensed care and biblical counseling – for its Veterans Empowerment Therapy Program (VETP). The program provides free, confidential counseling to veterans who are struggling due to trauma, and also includes counseling for spouse and children impacted by the veteran's situation – something not always covered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“We know that, behind the scenes, many families have fallen apart because of PTSD, because of (traumatic brain injury), whatever the military trauma is,” Post 100 Second Vice Commander Hayde Spencer said. “The thing I like about VETP is it’s not just for the veteran. It’s for the family.”

Spencer said the idea of providing such a program was born when Post 100 was chartered in 2017 and was a collaboration between then-Post Commander Jason Castleberry and Erin Kincaid, the spouse of a veteran and the founder and owner of Higher Hopes Counseling.

“It started off very small,” Spencer said. “I think Higher Hopes had three counselors, and Erin was selling pies to help fund the program. But now I believe they’re up to 17 counselors, and six are dedicated to VETP.”

Spencer said Post 100’s job is to both spread awareness about VETP and find funding mechanisms. “Our role is to promote this program throughout the community,” she said. “We try to do annual fundraisers: a silent auction, dinners, that type of stuff. But now we have found additional means for raising money for it.”

As an example, Spencer said The Good Place, a thrift store started in Royse City in the past two years, now donates 10 percent of its quarterly proceeds to VETP.

Spencer said VETP falls in line with The American Legion’s national Be the One veteran suicide prevention program, and that Post 100 has been promoting Be the One by placing its branding on social media, as well as on its posters, banners, and post business cards and pamphlets.

“We just got approval to do our own Be the One t-shirt with our emblem and our post on there,” she said. “We want to take it as far as we can get it out there.”

Being able to impact local veterans and their families in a positive, life-changing way, “tears me up just thinking about it,” Spencer said. “We save lives. There’s no data to support that, but you’ve got to know that we’re helping the family come back together as a unit. We’re bringing healing. We know we’re making a difference the best that we can. And we’re doing it here locally. We’re doing it in our backyard. And I think that is something to be damn proud of.”