CSULB has joined forces with CSU Dominguez Hills and the Veterans Administration Healthcare System, Long Beach, to create Veterans University (VU).
The goal of the VU is to increase transitional rehabilitation services for returning veterans. As part of that mission, the VU will deliver its first virtual conference on Wednesday, May 14, from 10 a.m.-noon to mental health providers of the Department of Defense, the VA and private healthcare organizations in an effort to respond and resolve the stigma associated with post-traumatic stress disorder which is stopping many veterans from seeking treatment.
The virtual conference will have national and international projection over satellite and the web and anyone interested in viewing the virtual conference presenting these internationally recognized experts on combat trauma can easily register at http://www.uces.csulb.edu/innovativeinterventions/.
The collaboration will expand opportunities for veterans to receive individual and family counseling, physical therapy services and create job training and educational programs for returning soldiers. This unique effort will unite the best practices and programs in two universities with those of the VA Health Care System. Veterans University will offer specialized services that will be provided in a university or virtual classroom setting. Utilizing state-of-the-art distance learning technology, programs also can be delivered off campus, regionally, nationally and internationally.
The purpose of these separate institutions joining together is to expand transitional services to create a one-stop shopping approach for veterans returning from war, explained Veterans University Director Patrick O’Rourke, a 22-year member of the armed forces. These include educational programs, career training, counseling and clinical services as well as educational opportunities.
“The genesis of this project came from the minds of Ron Norby, director of the VA Healthcare System Long Beach and the College of Health and Human Services' Dean Ron Vogel, both Vietnam veterans,” said O’Rourke. “As military veterans they shared many common experiences and as administrators of health care programs, they recognized a collaborative approach had to be employed to engage government and non-government resources to maximize our transitional service capabilities for veterans. In 2007, they decided to reach across to another institution and tap into the expertise in prosthetics and Orthotics found at CSU Dominguez Hills’ College of Health and Human Services. Now, not only will veterans have the resources of CSULB to draw on, they will have the resources of the VA and CSU Dominguez Hills.”
The need for Veterans University has never been stronger, O’Rourke said. In March 2007, the Department of Defense reported that more than 25,000 U.S. troops had been wounded in action while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. When “non-combat wounded” are included, the number soars to between 50,000 and 75,000, depending on the source. The influx of so many veterans, including those with behavioral health problems, O’Rourke believes, has challenged the Veterans Administration Health Care System.
Projects like the virtual conference hope to raise the level of awareness about healthcare programs designed to help to deal with issues that affect student veterans, National Guard and Reserve personnel who have served in the military during these difficult times, O’Rourke said. He points to such local units as the National Guard’s 40th Infantry Division based in Los Alamitos as well as the 63rd Regional Readiness Command, a large reserve component.
“Service members assigned to these groups live in our community and are enrolled at CSULB or Long Beach City College,” he said. “These are the same people who carry the brunt of our war on terrorism. Right or wrong, it is up to us as a community to reach out to these veterans, the actively serving members and their families.”
One of the goals of VU is to offer a spectrum of services to match the different needs of its members. O’Rourke points with pride to the high level of motivation he finds at CSULB, the VA Health Care System and in the community. “Every week, more people latch on and say they want to be a part of this,” he said. “It is up to our campus and the broader community to extend a hand to our veterans.”
O’Rourke encourages campus student veterans to get involved with the newly formed student veteran organization, Veterans Network or VetNet. “After spending 22 years in the military, I’ve learned that there is strength in numbers,” he said. “There are rewards to military service and one of the greatest is the sense of camaraderie among veterans. Let’s not let that go. Let’s build on it. Let's build a network of support here at CSULB.”