VA Launches Homeless Initiative to Tackle Substance Abuse Counselors to Work in Local Homeless Shelters

January 31, 2007

News & Links

America's Veterans

DENVER - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson, joined by White House Director of National Drug Control Policy John Walters and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, today announced a new VA program to take substance abuse services directly to homeless veterans in the community.

Today, during a morning ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new, VA-funded 14-bed transitional housing facility for veterans at Denver C.A.R.E.S. (Comprehensive Addiction Rehabilitation Evaluation and Services), Nicholson committed to placing 30 substance abuse counselors in communities around the country to take substance abuse counseling directly to homeless provider sites. One of the new counselors is slated to serve Denver-area programs, including C.A.R.E.S.

"Today's announcement reflects the President's and VA's commitment to improving veterans' lives by integrating treatment for substance abuse and mental health conditions," Nicholson said. "Denver C.A.R.E.S - and many other programs like it - will benefit from this initiative.

"By partnering with cities like Denver, and its community and faith-based service providers, we are making progress in fighting veteran homelessness across the nation. Helping these veterans get off the streets and become substance free so they may successfully return to independent living in their communities is a priority," Nicholson added.

"This is critical outreach on the part of Veterans Affairs," said Director Walters. "With proper diagnosis and intervention, the disease of addiction is treatable, as with other chronic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, and asthma. By implementing on-site counseling at transitional facilities, we help recovering vets get one step closer to being back on their feet."

The addition of the counselors is, in part, in response to the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, which called for a more recovery-oriented mental health system. The commission found that a key challenge to developing integrated treatment programs is overcoming the traditional separation between mental health and substance abuse treatment.

Other communities receiving new counselors as part of today's announcement are: Albuquerque, N.M.; Atlanta; Baltimore; Boston; Chicago; Cincinnati; Cleveland; Columbia, S.C.; Dallas; Detroit; Houston; Gainesville, Fla.; Indianapolis; Iowa City, Iowa; Las Vegas; Little Rock, Ark.; Long Beach, Calif.; Los Angeles; Memphis, Tenn.; Miami; Milwaukee; Montrose, N.Y.;. Philadelphia; Portland, Ore.; Salisbury, N.C.; San Francisco; St. Louis; Syracuse, New York; and West Haven, Conn.

VA granted Denver's Department of Human Services $310,828 to renovate existing space to create the 14 new transitional housing beds. VA helps hundreds of similar public and nonprofit organizations provide supportive housing and service centers for homeless veterans.

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