New Carbon office to address veterans’ mental health needs

Written by on September 13, 2022

New Carbon office to address veterans’ mental health needs

By Brittany Sweeney
September 13, 2022

The Veterans Hub of Northeastern PA just started offering counseling for veterans every Wednesday at St. Luke’s University Health Network’s Lehighton Campus. (Photo by Brittany Sweeney/WLVR News)

LEHIGHTON, Pa. — More tools to help those who have served their country now are available in Lehighton.

The Veterans Hub of Northeastern PA just started offering counseling for veterans every Wednesday. The in-person sessions are offered through the Scranton Vet Center.

The office opened this month on St. Luke’s University Health Network’s Lehighton Campus, just down the hall from its walk-in mental health clinic at the former Gnaden Huetten Hospital.

“Unfortunately, one of the big driving forces behind this was Carbon County has the highest veterans suicide rate in the entire state,” said Jennie Rose Serfass, manager of Behavioral Health Services & Rural Residency for St. Luke.

“So [we were] trying to come up with ideas thinking outside the box, and one of the ideas was building it next to the walk in center for warm handoffs.”

Serfass said the veterans center will be staffed with a VA member or someone from the suicide prevention organization Together with Veterans.

“Here in Carbon County, we have some really incredible veteran organizations, but there’s no point contact, there’s no central way to get them connected with those resources,” Serfass said. “A lot of different resources are going to be at their fingertips and more easily accessible now with this office location.”

Serfass said the resources are not just for servicemen and women, but their families as well.

A book cart designed for children and adolescent family members of veterans is part of the new counseling for veterans at St. Luke’s University Health Network’s Lehighton campus. (Photo by Brittany Sweeney/WLVR News)

“We have a book cart that was specifically designed for veteran family members for children, adolescents. We have some really cool books,” she said.

“They’re veteran examples of what kids can look for and just seeing people like their family members in books. How often do we really see veterans depicted in books for children and for them to understand the excitement and make them even more proud?”

Christine LeClair, director of veterans affairs in Carbon County, said the partnership between St, Luke’s and the Scranton Vet Center “plans to equip our community with the tools and resources it needs to connect veterans who are experiencing an emotional or mental health crisis with lifesaving support.”

“Having this local, in-person option for counseling is key to addressing the stigma, normalizing mental health care and providing that specialized care that our veterans deserve,” LeClair said.

The in-person veteran counseling sessions are offered by appointment. Those interested can call the Scranton Vet Center at 570-344-2676.

St. Luke’s University Health Network opened the new walk-in mental health center in mid-August in space that was Gnaden Huetten’s emergency department.

St. Luke’s says the clinic is the first in the region and one of the first of its kind in Pennsylvania.


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