Two North Shore residents have started a nonprofit organization to serve post-Sept. 11 military veterans across Long Island in need of mental health services.
On Sept. 23, President Laurie Sloane of Roslyn Heights, Vice President Linda Caginalp of Manhasset and a slew of volunteers launched Here to Help Military and Families, an organization dedicated to helping veterans and their families find therapists for individual, couples and family counseling.
“There are so many veterans who live here, and I kept hearing either they needed services that weren’t available, there was too long a wait for services or they didn’t want to go to the various agencies,” Sloane said.
Caginalp said the number of post-9/11 veterans and family members on Long Island is unknown but is estimated at about 12,000 families.
Sloane said free therapy is provided by volunteer therapists willing to give time in their private practice offices, and Caginalp said about 40 licensed therapists have joined. No insurance or payment of any kind is required, Caginalp said.
Services are available for active duty military members, Reservists, National Guard members and veterans regardless of discharge.
Sloane, a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist for more than 30 years, said she is one of the volunteer therapists, and the organization is looking for any licensed therapists on Long Island willing to donate their time as well as volunteers to help with fundraising and community outreach.
Caginalp said Sloane focuses on the clinical side while she works on the administrative side. As the daughter of two veterans, she said these issues have always been close to her heart.
“My parents were both World War II vets — my dad was in the Army and my mother was an Army nurse,” Caginalp said. “As I grew up, veterans were always an important issue for them, and that became engrained in me. When this opportunity came up, it just felt right carrying on their mission.”
Caginalp said the organization is ready for referrals through an intake line at 631-602-0075. After a veteran leaves a message, a professional clinician will call back within 24 hours to arrange a therapist based both on need and location. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Now that you’ve returned, if you have PTSD, or you’re having troubles with your spouse, or you’re getting mad too often, getting to talk to someone about those concerns is incredibly helpful and healing,” Sloane said. “People who give it a try find it very helpful, and it’s confidential.”
Caginalp said the stigma of mental health problems often deters veterans from seeking help.
“There’s a lot of suicide, a lot of substance abuse, a lot of domestic abuse because of the war,” Caginalp said. “They come home and feel totally disengaged. They think they’re the helpers and warriors who are supposed to give help, not get help.”