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Congress backs North Bay center's model of veterans care

  • 11/11/2012: A11:

    PC: Mark Lugo receives a hug from his grandmother, Pat Mark, following The Pathway Home graduation ceremony in Yountville on Friday, June 22, 2012. The Pathway Home is a transition center that helps returning soldiers with combat related stress.

Congress gave traumatized war veterans "a major league gift" by approving a pilot program that will provide federal payment for private treatment, the founder of a North Bay residential center said Friday.

Fred Gusman, chief executive officer of The Pathway Home in Yountville, said the new program marks the beginning of a collaborative effort by the Defense Department, Department of Veterans Affairs and nonprofit organizations in helping heal the psychological wounds of war.

The program, authorized in a bill co-sponsored by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, "restores your faith that finally we all will be able to work together," Gusman said.

The Pathway Home

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Gusman, a Vietnam veteran who worked for the VA for 28 years, said he began working with Thompson on the idea a few years after starting The Pathway Home in 2008.

Housed in a building on the grounds of the California Veterans Home at Yountville, the private facility has treated about 380 soldiers, both veterans and men still on active duty, suffering from post-traumatic stress and related problems.

Veterans pay nothing for the four-month treatment program, which receives no government funding and depends on foundation grants, public donations and fundraising, Gusman said.

Enrollment is currently limited to about 15 men due to budget constraints, and Gusman said he and other staffers have periodically worked without pay to keep the program going.

Nearly two-thirds of Pathway Home's clients have been referred by the VA, and a survey of 100 graduates found that 93 percent were "doing great" two years later, he said.

In a written statement, Thompson said his bill, wrapped into the $607 billion Department of Defense spending act approved by the Senate last week, enables veterans "to access cutting-edge care, even if it's offered outside of our military medical facilities."

The bill, co-authored by Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, allows active duty troops to receive treatment from private facilities under an investigational pilot program.


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