Help for veterans program receives Cal Vet grant

Money will help provides services for student veterans|

Santa Rosa Junior College’s Office of Veteran Affairs has received a 141,640 annual grant for two years to provide services for United States veterans.

The grants were a collaboration between the Sonoma County Veterans Service Office, Nation’s Finest, Legal Aid of Sonoma County and SRJC Student Psychological Services to create a grant application for assistance from Cal Vet under 2004’s Proposition 63 the Mental Health Services Act..

The collective’s practical approach to providing critical veterans services in one location set them in a position to receive the grant. By appealing to veterans in the early stages of military separation, when they are typically vulnerable, unsure of how to proceed with life goals, suffering from service-incurred and/or untreated mental health or physical challenges, the Office of Veteran Affairs is in a unique situation to assist with re-entry to civilian life.

“Receiving grant funds from the Mental Health Services Act through Cal Vet has opened the door for SRJC to, not only build a more robust veterans program, but also to form strong collaborative bonds with community resources like Nation’s Finest, Legal Aid of Sonoma County, and the Sonoma County Veterans Services Office,” said Farrel Dobbins, coordinator, Veteran’s Affairs.

“On our own, we each can only address very specific needs for Veterans in the Sonoma County region. Together, we are able to address multiple critical needs of the veteran or their family members. This is great news for student-veterans at SRJC because we know when we address the needs of a student as a whole, they are more likely to persist through graduation and/or transfer.”

With the grant, the Office of Veteran Affairs was able to hire a Veteran Student Success Specialist who works directly with student veterans and their family members to identify critical needs, which could otherwise prevent them from successfully completing their education at SRJC. The specialist refers students directly to campus and community resources that can work with them to address those needs. The community resources will likewise refer clients to SRJC so that the Office of Veteran Affairs can help them or their family members explore the option of enrolling at SRJC.

“Stan Bragg has been a great addition to my education team,” said James, a student veteran who has accessed services through the program. “He is a wonderful liaison for student veterans with knowledge of the education system and how to navigate it. He is personable, empathetic and his advice is outstanding.”

The grant will also help with attorney services for veterans at Legal Aid of Sonoma County. Veterans referred to Nation’s Finest for housing assistance will receive direct services, and Sonoma County Veterans Services Office will provide support with Department of Veterans Affairs’ matters.

“Too often, a veteran’s mental health needs are diagnosed and treated in a vacuum,” said Mary Haynes, the Santa Rosa Site Director for Nation’s Finest. “What makes this project great is its collaborative, community-based approach to ensuring that a comprehensive suite of wraparound services.”

In recognition of Veterans Day, SRJC’s Office of Veteran Affairs will be hosting a virtual open house to provide information about their services on Nov. 9, from noon until 1:30 p.m.

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