New Program Helps Local Clergy Understand the Needs of Veterans - Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System
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Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System


New Program Helps Local Clergy Understand the Needs of Veterans

Chaplain students

(Left to Right) Chaplain Kenneth Blank, Clinical Pastoral Education Program supervisor, Rev. Sally Weisenbach, Rev. Joe Lynch, Rev. Ricky Huggins and Rev. Guy Parrish.

By Nathan Schaeffer
Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center (JCMVAMC) began a new clinical pastoral education program in July to help local clergy understand the needs of Veterans.

Four local clergy are participating in the inaugural 13-week graduate level program, which will provide instruction on topics such as the emotional cycle of a military deployment, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), suicide prevention, traumatic brain injury, substance abuse, domestic issues, military sexual trauma and personal testimonies from Veterans who served in Vietnam, Desert Storm, Afghanistan, Iraq and Women Veterans.

JCMVAMC is the first VA medical center to provide a community-based clinical pastoral education program that focuses on Veteran’s issues.

“Often the first place Veterans turn is the local church,” said Blank.  “However, clergy often don’t understand the unique needs of the Veterans.  We want to familiarize them with the dynamics that some Veterans face, so they can not only listen for those dynamics but also respond to them.”

Rev. Sally Weisenbach, who does outreach ministry at local prisons, hopes the program will help her better understand Veterans who are incarcerated.

“There are way too many Veterans that are in that condition,” said Weisenbach.  “I want to learn all that I can and help them.  It’s going to make me better all the way around.”

The program will also familiarize clergy with the VA health care system, so clergy can refer Veterans to VA.

The new program was made possible by a grant from The Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Centers, which were established by Congress with the goal of researching the causes and treatments of mental disorders and using education to put new knowledge into routine clinical practice in the VA.


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