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College Campuses Help Centralize Veteran Services

By Lindsay A. Powers
The Gazette
(excerpts)

Montgomery County is looking to its colleges to link to military veteran services, on and off their campuses.

The schools already have veterans in mind: Montgomery College serves student veterans in its Combat to College Progam and the Universities at Shady Grove campus has made several changes to its veteran services this fall.

A new initiative aims to centralize services available throughout the county under one umbrella and use schools as access points for veterans looking for mental-health counseling, help obtaining benefits or academic advice.

County Executive Isiah Leggett rolled out the initiative in November — about a year after meeting with the heads of the college campuses, as well as U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin and Rep. Christopher Van Hollen Jr., to talk about the issue, said Michael Subin, executive director of the Montgomery County Criminal Justice Coordination Commission and the initiative’s coordinator.

Leggett initiated the meeting because “he saw gaps in the services and wanted them closed,” Subin said.

Another important aspect, he said, is not duplicating efforts in the county.

Montgomery College, the Universities at Shady Grove and Johns Hopkins University’s Montgomery County campus all play roles in the initiative. The Silver Spring Vet Center and the Mental Health Association of Montgomery County are the first among a growing group of county organizations sharing and providing services on campus, Subin said.

Colleges were a logical place because many veterans take advantage of the GI Bill benefits that cover education costs and campuses are where veterans experience the transition from military to civilian life, Subin said.

“By working with the schools, we’ve been able to identify what is out there and find the means to share that effort,” he said. ...

The initiative also has reached the Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County campus.

Leslie Ford Weber — interim executive director at the Rockville campus — said that in the past, the school directed student veterans to general services available for all students at its Baltimore campus.

The campus now aims to help direct students toward closer services in the county, such as the Silver Spring Vet Center and the Mental Health Association.

Sgt. Walter A. Ramirez — president of the Shady Grove campus’ veterans organization and a Marine veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — said student veterans have helped spread the word about available services.

New efforts at Shady Grove make it easier to know what’s available, so the “stress and effort” of word of mouth is lifted off their shoulders, he said.

 

CATEGORY: In The Community