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March 24, 2013

Region could get its own Vet Center

The area could be moving closer to a Vet Center that would offer counseling services to veterans and their families.

A counselor from the Boston Vet Center will hold an outreach and counseling session at 112A East Haverhill St. in Lawrence on Monday starting at 9 a.m.

The session is a trial run for a potential expansion of service out of the Boston Vet Center, laying the groundwork for having a counselor regularly available for the Lawrence and Methuen area.

“If enough people show up, he might stay longer, or reschedule for another Monday,” said Greg Debroke, a claims officer with the Lawrence chapter of the Disabled American Veterans and a Vietnam veteran. He and Don Silva, another claims officer with DAV, had been coordinating with the Boston Vet Center to bring a counselor to Lawrence or Methuen.

Jamie Melendez, the Lawrence Veterans Services officer, said he also has been in contact with Boston, and has been talking with the Lowell Vet Center about the possibility of having a counselor from there assigned part time to Lawrence.

“I definitely agree we need to have one here for the simple reason of the challenges for our veterans with transportation,” he said. “We should have one here, we need one and we definitely have the veterans population here who would use it.”

Vet Centers provide nonclinical counseling services by veterans for veterans and their families and are operated by the federal Department of Veterans Affairs. They differ from outpatient clinics, like the one in Haverhill, because they can see veterans who have been accepted into the VA medical program but who are waiting to be assigned clinical counselor.

Veterans who are accepted into the VA medical program and need mental health treatment often wait more than a year before getting assigned to a counselor. Vet Centers can fill that gap with nonclinical counseling sessions. The nearest Vet Center is in Lowell.

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