VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — The mental health of our military members has become a focal point.
The U.S. Navy now investigating eight deaths by suicide of sailors in the Hampton Roads region in less than a year.
In Virginia Beach, a military clinic focused on mental health is asking city leaders for an annual grant so it can continue to support families.
The Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at the Up Center offers mental health services to veteran and military families in Hampton Roads.
Up Center president and CEO Tina Gill said the clinic fills a critical gap and it lessens the burden on other crisis services and mental health resources in the area.
“I don’t think it’s a secret to anyone that our country is in a mental health crisis,” Gill said. “Whether those are the suicide headlines you see from the sailors on the [USS] George Washington or whether you’re just reading in the news about children's mental health.”
Gill added: “Any given week we’re taking between 100 and 150 calls for help.”
Virginia Beach City Councilman Michael Berlucchi has championed the cause.
“We have one of the largest active duty, veteran, and military-connected families of anywhere in the country,” Berlucchi said.
Gill is gearing up to ask Virginia Beach City Council for an annual $200,000 grant to support the work the clinic does.
Jennifer Black, who is Lead Clinician at the Cohen Military Family Clinic, said the need is great.
“Oftentimes when people enlist, they come into the military with a number of issues that can often become compounded by the expectations of military culture,” Black explained.
Berlucchi said the money is deserved as the area needs more mental health resources for military members and veterans and the clinic is another safe place for community members to go.
“We’ve seen the incidences of suicide, but it’s not only those incidences that reflect the crisis that we are experiencing; it’s the incredible increase in depression and anxiety,” Berlucchi said.
That’s where the Cohen Military Family Clinic steps in to help.
The Up Center is presenting more information about its Clinic to Virginia Beach City Council members on Tuesday. Council members will decide on a possible grant before the city’s May budget approval.