Experts share steps of assistance for Veterans who suffer from substance abuse issues

VIDEO: Experts share steps of assistance for Veterans who suffer from substance abuse issues

AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - Veterans often face a wide range of problems when integrating back into society.

Many suffer from PTSD, end up homeless, or develop substance abuse problems as a coping mechanism. More often than not, these issues are not exclusive.

According to Robert Wilkie, the former secretary of veterans affairs, veterans are twice as likely to die from an opioid overdose as civilians.

The Amarillo Va Health Care System says they consistently have an average of about 100 veterans in their substance abuse programs. On top of that, there are a couple other resource centers helping other area veterans who are not getting help through the VA.

Those who work with these individuals say there are many layers to this issue.

“Like when I was in service, there was a time that the military would had out percocet like candy. If motrin wasn’t working, percocet was the next go to, to deal with pain management,” said Randy Willmon, navigator at the Veterans Resource Center under Family Support Services.

When the VA began to notice the opioid crisis was hitting vets hard, they launched a series of programs that replaced the drugs to help stop it. But, Willmon says for some veterans, it was too late.

“Some of the vets transitioned well to that, some more industrious vets went out and you know this is what I need and the VA is not giving it to me. It was prescribed, I need it. So they go out, and find it and end up on the wrong side of the law,” said Willmon.

Hesitancy seems to be another issue, as many vets feel as seeking help will make them a burden.

Both Willmon and officials at the VA argue it is quite the opposite, adding they are there to help vets.

“So whatever got you to this point where you are really wanting change, you want a better life, we work with them from where they are moving forward. So, however you got here, our treatment is going to help you with coping skills, with treatment, with relapse prevention, anger management,” said Elizabeth Jerg, licensed clinical social worker and supervisor at the Amarillo VA Health Care System.

The resource center offers programs such as peer support groups, and the VA takes a combination of therapy and medicine to help with this issue. Both say it is an ongoing process, but encourage those who are ready to make a change, to just call or walk in and begin that journey.

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