Categorized | Rotto_Gary, USA

We must reach out to veterans in need of care

By Gary Rotto

Gary Rotto

SAN DIEGO — A few years ago, I came across a former camper via Facebook.  Mike is a nice Jewish boy from El Paso.  He’s had many life changing experiences since we were at camp many years ago.  And many of Mike’s experiences have been as the result of his military and post military service.

Mike served 26 years in the US Army.  He says that he was a grunt, an infantry soldier.  But his profile demonstrates that Mike was more that “just” an infantry man.  He’s served in Special Forces and Military Intelligence.  Due to both his studies at the Command and General Staff College as well as his on-the-ground experiences, Mike’s an expert in insurgency and counterinsurgency.  In this day and age of war, his expertise has been in demand and taken him around the world “except for Antarctica and Australia.”

There are times that Mike has blown up over one of my Facebook posts.  He’s not the most diplomatic and can be very passionate.  He admits such and he admits that sometimes his comments can come off like a jerk.  But I get Mike.

Too often, Mike’s own Facebook posts are about a veteran who has taken his or her own life.  He puts himself out there, urging anyone who is having trouble to contact him.  He’ll find that person help, he’ll fund the help if he must.  But he wants every veteran to receive the services they need at the time that they need it.   I can sense frustration and heartbreak in these all too frequent posts.

I understand his concern.  I went into the administrative side of social work and non-profit work rather than the clinical side.  But I understand that if someone is in crisis, they need help now – not in a few days, not in a few hours.  And for too many people, especially veterans, they can not access the care they need when they need it.

This weekend, I have been thinking about Mike quite a bit.  He’s urged me, a resident in an area with probably the largest concentration of veterans in the US, to do something, to raise this issue of veterans’ health and veterans suicide.

Fortunately, as I work in the health care field, I am in a position to attempt to help.  Besides penning this column, I work as the Senior Vice President of Government and Public Affairs for Borrego Health.  We’ve made the decision that if we are to be loyal to our mission “to provide care to anyone in the community no matter their ability to pay” that this must include Veterans.

So, this Veterans Day weekend, I make a commitment to Mike.  I’m going to do everything I can to make our health center a place that Veterans can access care when they need it.  And I’m fortunate that our CEO has asked me to create a Veterans Service Division, one that will work to create systemwide competency in Veterans and Military Culture, that will continue to reach out to the VA both here as well as in Washington to create partnership, that will seek to be a core provider of services (especially behavioral health services) for veterans and one that will seek to play a positive role in Washington, DC to revise the Veterans Choice Program.

You have my word, Mike.  I’ll be working on this everyday so that we can provide the services that your brothers and sisters deserve when they need it.

Rotto has long been active in local Jewish and civic affairs.



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