Showing posts with label chaplains. Show all posts
Showing posts with label chaplains. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

PTSD needs crisis intervention now

Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
June 29, 2022

Some people think that crisis intervention is some kind of new thing. Then again, some people don't think it is worth the time or effort either. Aside from having been certified in it by the International Fellowship of Chaplains, I am also a survivor of it many times.

First here is a brief history of it. The word crisis comes from the Greek word, Krisis from
A crisis is a difficult or dangerous time in which a solution is needed — and quickly. For example, the crisis caused by a natural disaster might inspire you and your friends to make a donation.

The noun crisis comes from the Latinized form of the Greek word krisis, meaning "turning point in a disease." At such a moment, the person with the disease could get better or worse: it's a critical moment. Think of a celebrity whose recent antics generate headlines like "Rock Star in Crisis" — that person needs help that may or may not be sought. At the moment of crisis, things are unstable and maybe even dangerous.

Trauma is also a Greek word that means wound. When we're discussing PTSD it literally means after trauma. Connect that to the word crisis meaning turning point and you have, not only the definition of it, you have the solution.

Crisis Intervention goes back to the 1940s and '50s.


Definition of Crisis
The origins of crisis theory are usually attributed to Lindemann's classic study of grief reactions. LINDEMANN(1944) established the basic framework for defining the symptomatology of a crisis. He reported on the evaluation and treatment of 101 persons who had experienced a recent death of a close relative, a number of whom were connected to the victims of the Boston's Coconut Grove Club fire. He observed that acute grief was a normal reaction to a distressing situation and noted that such reaction presented some characteristic features that appeared to form a distinct syndrome.

According to Lindemann, persons experiencing acute grief display one or more of the following symptoms:
1. somatic distress;
2. preoccupation with the image of the deceased;
3. guilt,
4. hostile reactions, and
5. loss of patterns of conduct.
Sometimes the person experiencing crisis of bereavement may have distorted or delayed grief reactions. Lindemann also stated that the grief work inclu- des achieving emancipation from the deceased, readjustment to the environment in which the deceased is missing and formation of new relationships. His contribution has been considered the starting point for the development of crisis theory.

While the origins of crisis theory are attributed to Lindemann, the work of Gerald Caplan and his colleagues at Harvard University provided the foundations for the development of crisis intervention theory and practice. Caplan's interest in crises resulted from his work with families immigrating to Israel following World War 11. Caplan has pro-vided various definitions of crisis (1964, 1974): he considers that a crisis is provoked when a person faces a problem for which he appears not to have an immediate solution and that is for a time insurmountable through the utilization of usual methods of problem-solving. A period of upset and tension follows during which the person makes many attempts at the solution of the problem.

 (Please read the whole article.)

So why isn't it being done? Why is so much time wasted belittling survivors instead of helping them get the help they need? Because if the answer isn't easy, no one wants to do the work.

That was obvious when all the groups popped up all over the country, speaking out to the rest of the world devoting time, energy, and funding to raising awareness that veterans were committing suicide, instead of including the millions of others doing the same. They reduced this heartbreaking outcome for many survivors that survived the event that caused PTSD, but could not survive surviving itself.

With PTSD Awareness Month coming to an end, you'd think that this would have been a topic worth covering. So why wasn't it? Not enough people know about it. It is one of the biggest reasons why I made most of the characters in The Lost Son Alive Again series Chaplains!

Surviving trauma is a turning point into crisis. It is at that time you want someone there to help you make the right turn toward healing ASAP!

If you are a police officer, you may have heard something ridiculous like, "you let your job get to you" as if you are supposed to not let what you see bother you at all. It all bothered you enough in the first place that you decided to take the job to prevent as much as you could knowing you'd be exposed to all of the dangers that came with the job. You'd think your superiors would be more understanding of that fact since that was probably the same reason they became officers too.

If you are a veteran or currently in the military, you may have heard, "you didn't train right" because they were told residency training would help you toughen your brain. They say things like that because they are not capable of admitting the training they touted as so successful did not work! If it did when they started it, suicide would have gone down, and not increased.

If you have PTSD from any other cause, you may have head people tell you, "get over it" or "let it go" as if you are choosing to let it hang onto you.

What if right, after you survived, someone came over to you, and was there to show you the way to begin to heal as a survivor instead of making you feel as if what it is doing to you is your fault?

While First Responders help you survive the event itself, Chaplains help you begin to take the next turn toward healing instead of suffering.

If you haven't heard about Chaplains before don't feel bad. I sent the first editions of The Lost Son and Alive Again to a psychologist I know to review them. He really liked the story and said it flowed but he didn't know Chaplains were actually out there in the real world doing the work we did.

This is from Advent Health
What Does a Chaplain Do?
A chaplain is a certified clergy member who provides spiritual care for individuals in a non-religious organization, rather than a church congregation. Chaplains can work in government roles and serve members of the military in different locations. They can serve patients in healthcare or hospice facilities. Working in police departments, fire departments, and prisons is also common for chaplains.

Since chaplains are ordained ministers, they can officiate ceremonies such as weddings and funerals. They can lead baptism services and provide final rites for patients who are passing away. Chaplains can also take on the role of a spiritual leader for individuals who do not belong to a specific religious community."" Rather than preaching messages directed toward one religious group, chaplains lead non-denominational religious services that can benefit individuals from a variety of religious or spiritual backgrounds. Chaplains who hold positions at different institutions can also minister to staff members. For example, chaplains at hospitals can provide spiritual care to nurses, doctors, and administrators, as well as to patients and their families.
This is from Franciscan Friars
Chaplains minister to people in illness and death, counseling those who are having their worst days, many with loneliness and depression. Their work encompasses being compassionate to people of all faiths, in various stages of spiritual development, and even to those who have turned their backs on God or blame him for their illness.

Often, they minister not just to patients, but to entire families. And because patients are discharged so quickly from hospitals today, chaplains are always ministering to a new set of people. They must work quickly, always on their feet, as they walk the hospital halls seeing new patients.

Yet this is how the IFOC explains Chaplains

What does being a Chaplain mean?
Minister in areas of critical incident stress, grief and loss, trauma, and stress management
Provide counsel, education, advocacy, life-improvement skills, and recovery training
Build a bridge between the secular and spiritual environments of community life"
Bring life-changing service to every sector of community life, such as health and welfare, education, transitional living, emergency service, and governmental support.

As you can see, even with different groups, the common theme is that Chaplains are in the community, where the greatest need is.

Now, some people fear the Chaplain showing up will judge them or try to convert them. Using myself as an example, I drink, smoke, and swear, so I am far from perfect. If you read this site, you know how I feel about a lot of the nonsense going on over people that forget their right to believe what they choose, does not remove the rights of others to do the same. Sadly, you may run into some more interested in doing what they want, instead of doing what you need based on where you are spiritually and emotionally.;

Lumping all Chaplains in the same pile is like piling up all Christians with the fraction self-proclaiming the moral high ground of "pro-life" when in fact what they do with the living proves they are only pro-birth.

There is a long list of Christians that believe all of us are given free will by God and it is up to us to choose what is right for us. No one has the right to use their free will to remove it from others. Most of us know that we are not there to convert anyone. We are only there to help those in need of what they are in need of and most of the time, they need someone to listen to them.

From The Lost Son Alive Again
Mandy's notes
Chris was sorting out more of Mandy’s notes when he came across her notes about him.
Chris Papadopoulos: multiple traumas, war, abuse, domestic violence, a survivor of attempted murder, betrayal, but above all, lost his sense of purpose doing the only job he believed he was born to do as a reporter and attempted suicide.
Chris just left and I am praying for him. It is almost as if those last 7 years were punishment for him. The night of the 7th anniversary of the bomb blast he survived, he struggled between regretting he survived and being grateful for being saved. Regret was winning.
He held a gun in his hands as the two opposing sides were arguing within him. He survived the bomb but saw it as the beginning of his punishment. All that came afterward, in his mind, was all his fault. The more he blamed himself, the more he destroyed himself. His wife abusing him was his fault. Losing his job was his fault. Having to go back to Salem, broke and feeling like a failure was his fault. He couldn’t see that while he did make choices in his life, some were forced on him. If his wife loved him and supported him, he may have gotten help. If his boss valued him and had compassion, he may have supported Chris and got him into counseling.
There is so much he does not understand about forgiveness and how God forgives him because he cannot forgive himself. I pray he can do that soon and realize while he forgives others, he must forgive himself as well. He cannot change anything that has already happened. All he can do is learn from it and use the power he does have over defining the rest of his life.
Chris was supposed to become a priest but now he can become a minister to millions who feel as if there is no place for them in churches. His gifts are writing and a curious mind. He has compassion and understanding of what this spiritual pain feels like. Now he knows what healing feels like and can give hope to others that they can heal as well. They will know God hears their cries, forgives them when they blame Him for their suffering, and holds His arms out to them. He waits to welcome His lost children back to their Father’s home and see that they were never really alone.
In a way, one more indication that God sets our purpose inside of our souls, and sometimes, He has to come up with plan B to get us there. The key is always if we choose to follow where He leads or not. People that listen, find inner peace no matter what they face. Those who do not, are in turmoil. I can’t stop thinking about Jesus and how the story of one life never ended. What He left us still spreads across the world. I have a feeling that the story of Chris’s life will never really end. We are all never-ending stories of the life we lived.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

"I just tried to be there,” Chaplain Ron Link explains life as responding to responders

Always on call: Meet the chaplains who assist sheriff's office during crises

Dawson County News
Jessica Taylor
Feb. 26, 2019
Each year they receive 40 hours of training from the Georgia Sheriffs' Association to maintain their certification, which they said reinvigorates and motivates them to keep answering the calls from dispatch.

Dawson County Sheriff's Office Chaplains Ron Link and Dr. Charles Blackstock. - photo by Jessica Taylor 
"I just tried to be there,” Ron Link said as he recounted his first call from dispatch. “I didn’t know what I was supposed to do but it turns out I was doing what I was supposed to,"

Link became a chaplain for the Dawson County Sheriff's Office three years ago, and vividly remembers his first call to a scene: a devastating house fire.

Dr. Charles Blackstock, the lead chaplain who has served in the role for 10 years, was in Atlanta, leaving Link with the responsibility of responding to the call alone.

"I had no formal sheriff’s office training. I just went out there to try to be a help," Link said. "It was kind of overwhelming. It was a really bad scene."

It was a house fire, and someone’s significant other was inside. All Link could do was stand outside with the husband, comforting him as authorities conducted their investigation.

"I didn’t know what the procedures and processes were. I didn’t know who to talk to. All I knew was there was somebody there that was in real, emotional crisis and so I went over and stayed with him until his family arrived," Link said.

It was his first taste of what his new role as a chaplain entailed.

For Blackstock, a pastor at Lighthouse Baptist Church, stepping into the role was a little bit easier. With his ministerial background, he was rather comfortable with providing faith-based support to the sheriff's office staff and the community.
As chaplains, Blackstock and Link voluntarily assist the sheriff's office by delivering death notices, consoling emotional victims at crime scenes and emergencies and supporting the sheriff's office staff through counseling and helping officers cope with traumatic events.

How they go about providing assistance from scene to scene varies with every call.

"You never know what you’re going to get called on to do," Blackstock said.
read more here

Why is this important?

In 2008, I became a Chaplain with the IFOC and received Certification in Crisis Intervention, among other things, plus an award for my work focusing on PTSD prevention for first responders. For the next two years, I trained in many more programs to help avoid the worst results of their service from taking hold. While I no longer wear the badge, I carry the valuable lessons I learned with me everyday.

Why would I do that?
I am a ten time survivor of facing death during traumatic events, including when my ex-husband decided he wanted to kill me, and almost did.

Throughout my life, my family was doing the intervention without knowing it. Sure, I had nightmares, flashbacks, and all the other symptoms of PTSD, but it did not have a chance to take hold because it was addressed right away.

Through the research I had done for a couple of decades, I learned that there is a 30 golden window to battle trauma and take back control of my life. The symptoms had started to go away within the first month, and I was on the road to recovery.

Every now and then, things pop into my mind, but the memories no longer control my life. 

The worst one was when my ex stalked me, ignored the restraining order and every time I heard a muscle car engine rev, it sent a electrical charge through my body and I wanted to run. That went on, even after moving to Florida, far from where he lived, and long after I married my current husband.

When my cousin sent me a copy of his obituary, I stopped freaking out from the sound and began to enjoy the noise again. That comes in handy considering what I do on PTSD Patrol with car shows...although I still do not like my first reaction when I come across a Cutlass. I take a deep breath and move on to interesting pictures to take.

Knowing what all those times did to me, it was easy to understand what it was like for all the veterans and responders were dealing with, and being a family member of a Vietnam veteran, I also understood what it was like on this side of the trauma.

All of this goes into what I have done with my life since 1982, and what I do everyday. So if you find some comfort on this page, gain some knowledge, or decide that you can just copy it, now you know what is behind all of it.

Healing requires what Chaplains do because they are trusted with being able to listen without judging, comfort when needed and let you know that minute you start to address what happened, that is the minute you begin to heal as a survivor of it. 

First I listen. Most of the time, it is over a cup of coffee or at an event when someone sees what I am wearing. A shirt with PTSD Patrol or my Point Man vest, lets them know I am someone willing to listen.

Then I guide them to understanding what PTSD is and let them know how to kick it out of their new normal as a survivor. And is time to work on the spiritual side of healing so they can come out on the other side even better than they were before. You know, like me! 

None of what I do would have worked had I not had the life I had...or learned to become a leader to healing those who risk their lives to save people like me all the time. 

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Dan Johnson's claim of PTSD Challenged

It appears that Rep. Dan Johnson's claim of PTSD was based on an event he was not part of. Did he use it as a symbol of honor or of suffering?

When fake veterans claim to have PTSD when they were not involved in any service, we call that "Stolen Valor and it is illegal when they use it for financial gain." 

When people claim PTSD, and tie it to something that did not happen to them, shouldn't there be a label for that one too?

In this case, Johnson claimed to be in New York and working as a Chaplain. He also collected Worker's Comp. Strange considering that we have so many police officers down here in Florida unable to collect, as well as firefighters, even though, there is plenty of evidence there were in fact there an on their jobs when the had to respond to the worst a human could do. 

This story is offensive on so many levels, it hits a huge population. Anyone with PTSD, for real, is offended. Anyone actually working in New York on 9-11 is offended. Any female is offended with the rest of the story.

As a Chaplain, the entire thing is offensive, but it does raise the question of what the legal remedy should be when someone uses the system falsely, while those with real injuries caused on the job, receive nothing.

Kentucky lawmaker who spun history of heroics ends life in suicide 
Denver Post
Adam Beam
December 14, 2017

Timothy D. Easley, The Associated Press
Kentucky State Rep., Republican Dan Johnson addresses the public from his church on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017, regarding allegations that he sexually abused a teenager after a New Year’s party in 2013, in Louisville, Ky. Johnson says a woman’s claim that he sexually assaulted her in 2013 has no merit and he will not resign.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Kentucky lawmaker’s resume included enough material for an award-winning memoir: He was a peacekeeper at the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, a White House chaplain to three presidents and a 9/11 first responder who gave last rites to hundreds of people at Ground Zero.

But Republican Dan Johnson’s carefully crafted history crumbled this week following an extensively reported story from the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting. The story tore down his claims and portrayed him as a con man whose deceptions propped up his ministry of a church of outcasts in Louisville and hid a sinister secret: a sexual assault allegation from a 17-year-old girl.
On his financial disclosure forms, Johnson listed his only source of income as workers compensation from the state of New York. He said that money was from injuries he sustained while working as a chaplain immediately following the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York City. But the reporting center, after a seven-month effort, could find no evidence that Johnson was in New York that day. 
In a Facebook message posted hours before his death, Johnson hinted that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder relating to what he witnessed in New York, details that he shared with friends through the years, including Republican state Sen. Dan Seum.
read more here 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Sheriff Deputies Train as Chaplains

Chaplains’ care also goes to deputies
Course for ‘a ministry of presence’ is the first of its kind in Bexar County
San Antonio Express News
By Elaine Ayala
July 16, 2016

For the first time in Bexar County, 20 volunteer chaplains have received training to care and counsel sheriff’s deputies in what’s described as “a ministry of presence.”

Bexar County Sheriff's Office volunteer chaplain Bette Huereca, right, speaks with Sheriff Deputy Michelle Grabowski.
The Ecumenical Center created the Chaplains for Justice Training Program, an intensive 14-week course accredited by the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy. It’s considered a rarity in law enforcement, and the training is a first here.

Faith leaders and ministers long have worked in the county’s jail system, focused on the spiritual needs of inmates. Less attention has gone to the emotional well-being of law enforcement officers, though there is a growing recognition of its importance, most recently after the killings of five Dallas officers by a sniper during a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest.

The Sheriff’s Office began recruiting volunteer chaplains in 2013, spurred by the suicide of a detention officer that year. Its 14 chaplains received the training,and several others who graduated with them could help bolster their numbers, officials said. The county has a separate set of chaplains who minister to inmates.
read more here

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Montford Point Marine Charles C. Payne Passed Away

Local Montford Point Marine dies at age 89
Times and Democrat
November 21, 2014

Charles C. Payne of Orangeburg was a quiet warrior of sorts, having served from 1942 to 1949 as one of the first African-Americans to enter the U.S. Marine Corps and then as a faithful mentor at a local elementary school.

The 89-year-old died at Palmetto Health Richland in Columbia on Tuesday, leaving a legacy of which his community can be proud.

Payne served at Montford Point Camp, a segregated camp affiliated with Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He was one of approximately 37 Montford Point Marines who gathered at the U.S. Marine Corps Headquarters in Washington on Aug. 26, 2011, for a recognition program honoring the first African-Americans in the Marine Corps.

He went on in 2012 to be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his World War II service.

Payne served as chaplain of the Greater Orangeburg Leathernecks No. 1259 Marine Corps League.
read more here

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Chaplains of House and Senate Give Lessons to Leaders

Senate chaplain: Shutdown is 'madness'
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-editor
October 9, 2013

(CNN) - The federal shutdown has found its angry prophet.

Senate Chaplain Barry Black is usually a calm, pastoral presence on Capitol Hill, doling out spiritual wisdom and moral counsel to his high-powered flock.

But the Seventh-Day Adventist and former Navy rear admiral is mad as hell about the shutdown - and he's letting the Senate, and the Lord, know about it.

"Lord, when the federal shutdown delays payments of death benefits to the families of (soldiers) dying on far-away battlefields, it's time for our lawmakers to say enough is enough," Black said in his prayer opening the Senate on Wednesday.

"Cover our shame with the robe of your righteousness," Black continued, citing the Hebrew prophet Isaiah, who was no mean critic of government incompetence himself. "Forgive us. Reform us. And make us whole."

Black was referring to the withholding of death benefits for the families of U.S. soldiers because of the partial federal shutdown. Lawmakers are scheduled to vote Wednesday to reinstate them.
read more here

Friday, April 19, 2013

Boston bombings bring chaplains into new ground

They say Chaplains have the ministry of presence.
This is from Webster
Definition of PRESENCE

The job of a chaplain is supposed to take care of people. That is it. We are not supposed to care about anything but the people in need. When I am called, lately way too often, I care about what they need and what I can do for them to ease their pain and give them comfort. I don't care about what happened to me at the grocery store or like Wednesday when my dog almost broke my finger. It swelled up to twice the size before I could get my engagement and wedding band off that has been on my hand for 29 years. The doctor had to cut them off. I had an emergency call to take and the veteran didn't want to hear my problems. I didn't even try to tell him because his were bigger. I don't care I can't pay my bills when I respond to an email. They are my job no matter what.

They also don't want to hear me tell them they go to the wrong church, need to go back to church, or anything that has to do with division in religious groups. Being a Chaplain isn't supposed to be about anything other than the person in need. If done right, it can make all the difference in the world. Friends of mine are in Boston right now doing just that. Putting others first. While I don't know Sister Maryanne Ruzzo, there are many like her and this is a good story to read.

Boston bombings bring chaplains into new ground
Washington Post
By G. Jeffrey Macdonald
Religion News Service
Updated: Friday, April 19, 3:21 PM

BOSTON — Two days after the Boston Marathon bombings, Boston Medical Center chaplain Sister Maryanne Ruzzo was checking on staffers who’d been caring for the injured when she received a page. A bombing victim wanted to see her.

The bedside was fraught with worry. A woman in her 30s had lost a leg to amputation as surgeons deemed it unsalvageable. Still suffering multiple injuries, she was now heading into surgery again, knowing she might wake up with no legs at all.

Ruzzo stood among the woman’s parents and siblings and did what she does best: listen. She heard their fears, including concern for the woman’s husband, who was being treated at a different hospital and who also might lose a leg to amputation. Then she prayed.

“Other people might not want to feel the pain and say,’Oh, it’s going to be fine,’” said Ruzzo, the Archdiocese of Boston’s coordinator of Catholic services at BMC. “We just try to be present and listen to them. ... I prayed for the surgeons and the nurses.”

In a week when Boston hospitals cared for more than 170 bomb victims, staff chaplains were suddenly in great demand. They moved calmly from emergency departments to waiting rooms and employee lounges, offering a compassionate ear and much-needed comfort to anxious patients, family members and staffers.

“People think,’OK, here’s the guy who kind of represents the universe, or God, or the infinite or eternity,’” said Sam Lowe, a Quaker staff chaplain at BMC.

“If I stand there and I’m able to hear their story ... it reconnects them to the rest of humanity,” at a time when they’re apt to feel terribly alone.
read more here

Monday, March 18, 2013

Orlando VAMC is seeking two fee basis Chaplains, Jewish and Roman Catholic?

This is why I would not qualify to be a Chaplain with the VA. I am not what they are looking for but then again, I know too many they wouldn't be interested in because they don't have the right kind of background and maybe it is time to change the rules to, oh, I don't know, maybe about knowing what veterans are going through would be a good place to start?

Orlando VAMC is seeking two fee basis Chaplains, Jewish and Roman Catholic

This position will be open until it is filled. Applicants will be referred approximately every two weeks.

To fulfill President Lincoln's promise – "To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan" – by serving and honoring the men and women who are America's Veterans. How would you like to become a part of a team providing compassionate care to veterans?

Every job at the VA impacts the Veterans that we serve. You can be part of that team, helping to make sure that our Veterans receive the top-quality care they deserve.

DUTIES: Back to top The Orlando VAMC is seeking two fee basis Chaplains, Jewish and Roman Catholic. The Chaplain provides complete religious ministry care on an intermittent basis to veteran patients in the Clinic, Community Living Center and Domiciliary at the Orlando Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The incumbent assesses religious and spiritual needs of patients and plans and provides pastoral care as a member of an interdisciplinary treatment team. The Chaplain provides pastoral ministry beginning with initial visits to newly admitted patients and continuing with conscientious attention to patients' spiritual needs in crisis situations, as well as regular pastoral care. He/she provides pastoral counseling to individuals or groups; arranges for and conducts worship services; provides ministry to patients' families, especially in times of crisis. The chaplain also fosters a cooperative relationship with individuals and groups in the community to aid in understanding the Medical Center programs. The Chaplain documents care in electronic medical records and protects sensitive information from loss, disclosure, or alteration. The chaplain maintains contact with families of patients with local pastors, with local church group and with interested community organizations to further their interest in the problems of the patients.


(1) Citizenship : Non-citizens may only be considered for employment as a chaplain when there are no qualified U.S. citizens available for a position. Further information is available on-line at:

(2) Ecclesiastical Endorsement: Must possess ecclesiastical endorsement, dated within the past 12 months, from the designated national endorsing official of his/her faith group or denomination. Ecclesiastical endorsement is the written official statement of the endorsing body certifying that the applicant is in good standing with the faith group or denomination and that the individual is, in the opinion of the endorsing body, qualified to perform the full range of ministry required in the VA pluralistic setting. We can accept endorsements only from the nationally designated official. If you do not know who is the ecclesiastical endorser for your faith group, please check the list on line at Select "Employment Information" then scroll down to the "List of Ecclesiastical Endorsers." If you do not find your faith group on the list, phone the National VA Chaplain Center at (757) 728-7069.

(3) Education: All applicants must possess the degree of Master of Divinity or equivalent educational qualifications. Equivalent educational qualifications means possession of a bachelor's degree of at least 120 semester hours plus completion of not less than 70 semester hours of graduate course work which included all of the following: 20 semester hours in pastoral ministry; 20 semester hours in any combination of theology, ethics and philosophy of religion; 20 semester hours in the study of sacred writings, including the study of languages in which sacred writings are/were written; 10 semester hours in religious history and/or world religions.

To meet federal requirements, education must be from college(s), university(ies), or theological institution(s) that are accredited by an accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. The U.S. Department of Education has a database of accredited institutions on the internet at:

(4) Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE): In addition to the education requirements, applicants must have completed at least 2 units of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) [as defined by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE), the National Association of Catholic Chaplains (NACC), or the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy (CPSP)]. 800 hours of supervised ministry in a formal training program which incorporated both ministry formation and pastoral care skills development may be substituted for the required CPE.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Operation Safety 91 Tribute to First Responders

It was my pleasure to attend this 5th tribute to our first responders here in Orlando. Ed and Mary Ganster did a fabulous job putting this all together and as always, the Rosen Center Hotel was beautiful.

Operation Safety 91 is about Psalm 91 and those who are willing to risk their lives for all of us everyday.

Psalm 91
King James Version (KJV)
91 He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.
3 Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.
4 He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
5 Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;
6 Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
7 A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.
8 Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.
9 Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;
10 There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.
11 For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.
12 They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.
13 Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.
14 Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.
15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.
16 With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.

The emcee was WESH2 Chief Meteorologist Tony Mainolfi

Col. Danny McKnight, better known for Black Hawk Down is the National Spokesman for OS91 and he told the story of where he was last year. He was in Afghanistan when a young solider was blown up by an IED. The soldier lost both his legs but his arm was saved.

Jorge Diaz, West Miami Police Officer and author of Your Shield and Buckler talked about being watched over by God's angels and how each of the men and women serving this country were "equipped" to do it from within almost as much as they were equipped with their weapons.

This event was also broadcast to troops serving overseas.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Chaplain and family murdered in home, son arrested

Albuquerque Shooting: Teenager Kills 5 People, Including 3 Children
Huffington Post

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A 15-year-old boy remained in custody Sunday night as detectives tried to piece together what led to the shooting of his parents and three of their children who were found dead in a New Mexico home.

The teenager was arrested on murder and other charges in connection with the shootings, which happened Saturday night at the home in a rural area southwest of downtown Albuquerque, said Lt. Sid Covington, a Bernalillo County sheriff's spokesman.

Authorities identified the victims late Sunday as Greg Griego, 51, his wife Sara Griego, 40, and three of their children: a 9-year-old boy, Zephania Griego, and daughters Jael Griego, 5, and Angelina Griego, 2.

Word of the shootings traveled quickly through the law enforcement community, and officials began offering their condolences for Greg Griego, a spiritual leader known for his work with firefighters and the 13 years he spent as a volunteer chaplain at the county jail.

"Chaplin Griego was a dedicated professional that passionately served his fellow man and the firefighters of this community," Fire Chief James Breen said in a statement. "His calming spirit and gentle nature will be greatly missed."

Jail Chief Ramon Rustin said Griego was instrumental in the creation of the Metropolitan Detention Center's chaplain program and worked to get inmates integrated back into the community.

Griego also was a former member of the pastoral staff at Calvary, a Christian church in Albuquerque. As part of his work there, he oversaw the Straight Street program for jail inmates.

Authorities said each victim suffered more than one gunshot wound, and several guns were found at the home, one of which was a semi-automatic military-style rifle.
read more here

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

We Honor Veterans, trains hospice workers to serve dying veterans

Program tailors hospice care to traumatized veterans


Special to The Star

The Vietnam veteran pulled low the bill of his baseball cap, staring absently at the small terrier splayed across his lap.

From his recliner, he wouldn’t let Crossroads Hospice chaplain Ron McCullough see his eyes or the trauma behind them — now decades old, yet intensifying as he drew nearer each day to death.

Though graphic memories of killing Viet Cong were resurfacing, increasingly, he insisted he didn’t want a chaplain. Nor did he want to talk about the war, as if trying to dismiss McCullough and his military service at once.

Gary Jones was dying of cancer, but McCullough detected another condition that he has seen more frequently in recent years: latent post-traumatic stress disorder afflicting dying veterans as they confront unresolved war memories, some for the first time.

McCullough is part of a new national program that offers terminally ill veterans honor and emotional healing. The program, We Honor Veterans, trains hospice workers to serve dying veterans by helping them die peacefully and with pride in their service.

Read more: Program tailors hospice care to traumatized veterans

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Chaplains visit Anaheim Hills and Yorba Linda after Freeway Complex fire

Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times
Chaplain Keith Stiles, right, of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, consoles Vivian Vargas, left, after she lost her home on Aviemore Drive in Yorba Linda in the Freeway Complex fire. Stiles gave them a Bible and prayed with them.

Chaplains visit Anaheim Hills and Yorba Linda after Freeway Complex fire
By Duke Helfand
Mon, 24 Nov 2008 10:33:32 PM

When they respond to disasters, chaplains from the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team usually encounter throngs of desperate victims.

So the evangelical Christians were surprised Monday as they searched deserted, mountainous neighborhoods of Anaheim Hills and Yorba Linda that had been charred by the Freeway Complex fire.

The chaplains were awed by the panoramic views from Orange County's sloping suburbs, but struck by the absence of victims and eager to apply their ministerial hands.

The seven men, led by a retired police chief from North Carolina, had received just 15 requests for help since their arrival last week, their third deployment to Southern California since 2003 in response to wildfires.

A much larger contingent of chaplains received several hundred requests for help during last year's Witch fire in northern San Diego County.
click above link for more

Monday, July 28, 2008

IFOC Chaplain Susan Westfall of Charleston offering training

This is what I've been talking about. I hope that Dawn Schabbing forgives me for posting all of this instead of just a teaser. Please click on the link to make sure she gets the hits for this. It shows what chaplains do in everyday life. I may be the only chaplain you've ever been in any kind of contact with.
Thursday, July 24, 2008 8:10 PM
CDT Training for chaplains to help serve Coles County to be offered soon
BY DAWN SCHABBING, Features Writer

There are lots of times when we just need someone to listen. And some people believe they were called by God to listen, inspire, calm and help the hurting, all with confidentiality. In secular settings these people are called chaplains. The International Fellowship of Chaplains Inc. is a non-profit group that helps train volunteer chaplains to work in a variety of settings.

Susan Westfall of Charleston, a senior chaplain with IFOC, is hopeful that an upcoming training session planned Aug. 18-22 in Charleston will help fill the need for chaplains across Coles County.

The training will be held at the Salisbury Church in Charleston. There is a $295 registration fee. The pre-registration deadline is Aug. 8. For brochures and more information about the 48-hour intense training, visit the church or go online to

“We want to develop a Chaplaincy Corps in Coles County. We want to serve those who serve our community,” Westfall said. Westfall said duties of a chaplain fall in a variety of settings, including at the scene of a fire, working with police, at a hospital, in an industrial setting, with youth, in nursing homes, detention centers and many more.

“Dealing with the victims and/or their families also frees the professionals to do their jobs better. In a suicide attempt, I can comfort other family members, while the police, fire, medic personnel deal with the person in trouble,” Westfall said. “In a domestic, I can deal with the children, the neighbors, or the person who called in the emergency.”The chaplain also makes death notifications. Westfall works full time as the director of operations with Serve India Ministries, an organization that she helped start in 2006. She trained with the IFOC and was ordained in August 2007. As a volunteer chaplain, Westfall works with the Charleston Police, Eastern Illinois University Police and Charleston Fire Department.

Mark Jenkins, Charleston police chief, said the department started utilizing chaplains about two years ago, as a ministry to the police officers and their families.“We had a couple of instances involving police officers (in the area) who had committed suicide. Officers typically won’t reach out to conventional mental health counseling,” Jenkins said. But, both Westfall and Chaplain Bill Phillips, who is also a pastor at the Church of God in Charleston, have built a link of trust with the officers and their families.“They are there for the families. They help take care of the families, pray with them, make sure they have a hotel if needed to stay in, and this helps us, so we can do our work,” Jenkins said.

Chaplaincy training involves dealing with trauma, critical incident stress, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, divorce, substance abuse, suicide, grief and loss, and death notifications.“In any secular setting, a chaplain can offer a wide-variety of things. Spiritually, chaplains can organize worship services, prayer meetings and Bible studies. They can provide religious assistance and counseling for employees of large corporations,” Westfall said.

Chaplains can be available for listening, for directing to available resources, provide pastoral counseling in marriage, depression, anxiety, family concerns, sexual concerns, vocational crisis, bereavement and substance abuse.Jenkins said he still considers the program to be in the infant stages.“It’s been wonderful. We are always looking for chaplains that want to help. We want to be prepared. You never know what could happen,” he said. For more information call Westfall, 549-0285.
Contact Dawn Schabbing at or 238-6864.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

International Fellowship of Chaplains Conference in Tiffin Ohio

The International Fellowship of Chaplains, Inc. (IFOC) is a non profit, providing training, recognition, certification and information in the varied areas of Chaplaincy. We also interface with the secular and ministry worlds for the purpose of promoting tolerance and understanding, as well as, provide professional, trained and dedicated Chaplains in the various fields of need.

The work of the Chaplain differs greatly from the work of the Pastorate. The Pastor cares for the Spiritual needs of the congregation; whereas, the Chaplain must care for the needs of the Secular World as well.
There are several fields of Chaplaincy, some of which are easily recognized. Others are not. The IFOC endorses all types of Chaplains and recognizes the need for Credentialed Coverage. Some Chaplaincy areas of note are, Police, Fire, Hospital, Jail, Industrial, Transportation, Search & Rescue, Sports, Collegiate, Hospice, Nursing Home, Motor Cycle, and the list goes on. All are valid in scope and design. All need Education, Credentials & Guidance to do the work their hearts desire.

The title of this year's conference was Receiving the Land. Very appropriate considering how God is moving the IFOC into uncharted territory. Dr. Dave Vorce had a vision of beginning a new location for the home of the IFOC. He didn't decide on Tiffin accidentally. It all came together because of the dedication of Chaplain Tracy. What a dynamo she is! There was a Kroger grocery store that was donated to the IFOC. This was owned by a Jewish family and they donated it because of the work the IFOC does for all of God's children. A donation came in from a Muslim organization. People began to come in an offer to donate materials and funds to turn this once food source for bodies to a feeding source for souls.

As usual, I got lost. It was supposed to take an hour and a half to drive from Columbus airport to Tiffin. Tiffin is located north covered by corn fields. Getting lost there is not a great thing to do considering there is no one to ask directions from. Chaplain Tracy later said that she couldn't understand why I couldn't get directions from the cornfields considering "they're all ears!" so yes, she has an amazing sense of humor as well. By the time I finally found out where I needed to be, it turned out that I was right in between the college and the hotel I was staying at.

I arrived at the college at the exact moment I was supposed to be there. Several people told of their stories. There was an ex-police officer telling how God was moving in his life after a traumatic event. A businessman spoke of how God was moving him to help the IFOC and his community. A judge spoke of how attitudes were changing to people in need. After the speeches, I was a bit surprised that people were coming up to me telling me how happy they were to finally meet me. My friend Chaplain Zeta told me that they were talking about some of my videos they've been using in training.

Yesterday more people were coming up to me, which I am not accustomed to. I'm the type more comfortable in the back of the room except on the occasions when I know I have to be a presence. In my class a uniform, badge and all, I look like a cop. What I didn't know was what apparently, they all knew. It was what happened last night that left me in shock.

After all these years of just doing what I do, blending into the crowd, the spotlight hit me. You have to understand what it took to get me to this conference, besides getting lost. I couldn't afford to go. That was really bothering me but I figured if God wanted me there, He'd find a way to get me there. Monday, I went to check my box at the UPS store and there was "love donation" that just about covered the cost of the plane ticket. There was no time to register for any of the certification classes and not enough money to cover the cost as it was. I just knew I had to be there.

Yesterday there was a film crew from LA taping interviews. I was put on the list before they even knew I was coming. Chaplain Tracy was doing the interview and as the equipment was being set up, she told me that Dr. Vorce had me on the list in advance. I couldn't understand why anyone would want to interview me considering the work the other Chaplains were doing. They deal with people in every walk of life, face to face, but the work I do in online and the only time I do the appearances it is to do educational presentations with the videos. I think I'm kind of boring and strange because this is ground breaking work into new territory. Using the videos in a whole new different way and the reach out work online with the addition of the blog covering reports from all over the nation and internationally, is not something chaplains have been doing. Truthfully, I'm in awe of the Chaplains working in the fields they are in. Interviewing them really made sense considering how they are there when people need them the most, right after traumatic events.

Anyway, last night was the awards night. Before the awards were given out, Dr. Vorce made a speech about the work I do and I got a standing ovation. As I struggled to keep myself from running out the back door, my friend Zeta made me get up. Dr. Vorce called me to the podium. I stood there not knowing what to say. Yes, I was speechless. When it comes to PTSD, people can't shut me up when I get started and there I was without knowing what to say.

I told the story of how the video PTSD Not God's Judgment was created. As I was making the other videos, I was being tugged to do on addressing the spiritual wound that happens after trauma. I didn't want to do it. I found excuse after excuse to not do it. I used the inability to find the right music, the right layout, the right pictures or I had better things that needed to be done first.

One of the Vietnam veterans I've been helping, has tugged at my heart since the first email. He's very special to me. One day as I was answering his email, I addressed how God did not judge him and this was not punishment. It was one of those days when I saw all the emails and was just drained. I didn't want to do anything that day until I read his email. After I responded, I look up and said in a very loud voice, "OK! YOU WIN! I'LL DO THE VIDEO! Amazed I didn't wake up the entire house, I got to work. A couple of hours later, it was done. The video I didn't want to do is healing a lot of people.

While Tracy was interviewing me she told me how much it's helping police officers and other people she helps everyday. She told me she can see the look of relief on their faces. It's the video that has opened a lot of doors for me that used to be locked shut. I had no idea what I had done.

They showed the video I did for the IFOC taking traumatic events from news and everyday life to explain how important the IFOC is. Again I was honored by the reaction. Later I was given an award, again shocked, for special achievement. "Exceptional Performance with Outstanding Achievement in the Service as a Chaplain" and a pin. I had no clue of any of this.

You have to understand that the other chaplains were receiving awards for the work they do and tremendous accomplishments helping others. Dr. Vorce's wife Judy, also a chaplain I adore, had gone with two other chaplains to respond the drowning of a 9 year old girl, who was also a relative. The child drowned saving the life of her sister. They responded not just for the family, but for the other people on the beach that day. Another chaplain had responded to the scene of a child who died at school when a flag pole fell on her. Chaplains just being there to help people after traumatic events that no one ever knows about when they read about these stories in the paper or watch the report on their local news. They never hear about the chaplain who takes care of officers at hospitals when one of their own is injured or killed in the line of duty. They never hear about how they comfort the families when the officers have to make a death notification and they bring the chaplain with them. I lost count on how many awards Chaplain Tracy received along with Chaplain Mindy. These people are unsung heroes acting out of love on a daily basis humbly and magnificently.

People told me that I deserved to be among them, honored at this event, but I feel I did not deserve to be anywhere near these people. They are heroes to me.

I hope to be able to tell more of their stories but they do not publicize their work. Their stories need to be told. Until then, please be aware that just because they do not have a blog or a web site, they are changing lives a lot more than I ever could. No one goes through life without facing events that are traumatic. The chaplains are there when they do need someone to help them get through it. The problem is there are not enough of them to go around. We need them everywhere.

If you have a tug at your help to help others, please consider becoming a chaplain. You get to decide where you are being lead and God will find a way to get you to where you are called to be. If ever you wondered who the people are coming to your rescue after a natural disaster, with IFOC Chaplain on their jacket, now you know who they are. You couldn't ask for a better group of people to serve your fellowman with. Go to the link above and learn more about these people who I am humbled standing next to.

Senior Chaplain Kathie Costos
International Fellowship of Chaplains"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of early wars were treated and appreciated by our nation." - George Washington

Sunday, June 1, 2008

"The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few"

From Bible Gateway

Matthew 9

12 On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.

13 But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.'[a] For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

The Workers Are Few
35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.
36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
37 Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.
38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."

Luke 10
Jesus Sends Out the Seventytwo
1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two[a] others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.
2 He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.
3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.
4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.
5 "When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.'
6 If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you.
7 Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.
8 "When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you.
9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The kingdom of God is near you.'
10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say,
11 'Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.'
12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

As with the time of Jesus walking upon the earth, too many get it wrong. They think the mission of "workers" for Christ is to force faith upon them, but it isn't. You can see clearly what the thoughts of Jesus was when he gave instructions to his disciples. Their mission was to heal them to show the love of God and the mercy of Christ who sent them. The harvest was plenty because there were some many people hurting and in need of comfort, compassion, love, hope and healing. The workers were those who made the choice to follow Christ, but there were too few of them at the time to reach everyone in need.

Today we see that being repeated yet again. The workers in this case are the people who work for the VA. The vast majority of them are fine people who were willing to work for a lot less money in order to help the veterans as a way of paying them back in their own way. Yet today, even still, there are less workers in the VA than there were following the Gulf War. There are less psychiatrist and psychologist, less mental health nurses and not enough Chaplains. 20% of the facilities use Chaplains. This fact I found devastating when I posted it the other day on this blog. The needs of them many cannot be filled by the few.

While there is a problem with the fact there are people more interested in getting more members into their own branch of Christianity and evangelizing more than they are serving the needs of people as Christ commanded, I do not have a problem with Chaplains serving. Big difference. As a Chaplain I am required to take care of the spiritual needs of all people no matter which branch they belong to and no matter what faith they have. This means that if they have no faith at all, I am still required to serve them equally as one of God's children. I am not there to condemn them, embarrass them or walk away from them if they lack faith. Just as Christ sent out the 72, if they want my help, I have to give it. If they do not, then that's up to them.

Working with veterans, the first thing is to get them to understand that PTSD is a wound, has nothing to do with their bravery or courage, their patriotism or anything other than the fact they are normal people exposed to abnormal events and having a normal reaction to what most people never see. It's my job to get them to understand what comes with PTSD and it is also my duty to get them to stop feeling as if God abandoned them or condemned them. I am there to support them no matter if they agree with what they did serving or not, no matter if they are practicing Christians, or any other faith or of no faith at all. They are wounded people who need help and if they see the compassion of Christ within me and the love of God, then I am doing my job. Where they go and what they do after is up to them but they will walk away knowing a side of God they may not have known before. Too many remember the parts of the Old Testament and know very little from the New Testament. It's very hard for them to understand all the love there is within the pages of the Bible.

When Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan, the wounded man did not say what he believed, did not say he was a member of any faith at all. The Samaritan was helping someone in need and took care of a stranger everyone else just avoided. In this is love. In this is mercy. In this is compassion. When Christ said that we were to treat others as we would want to be treated, he added nothing to that. It was not commanded we first ascertain their faith base before we help them. This again is the mission and the duty of a Chaplain. Yet some will condemn the "heathens" with no faith, will condemn the homeless and the poor and the needy as if they have no right to live at all.

Jesus told the doubters that if they did not believe in who he was then they should believe in the work he did. It's about time we got to work the way he intended us to do the jobs he called us to do. It's about time we returned to the original mission and let God lead them where He wants to take them after.

I am Greek Orthodox, yet was administrator of Christian Ed for a Presbyterian Church, my best friend is Methodist and I have a lot of Catholic friends as well as some family members. Do you think I would say to any of these people I care about their faith is not as worthy as mine? Do you think I would tell them they are wrong? Who am I to judge any of them? Jesus started one church and one Christian faith, not many. After all there was only one of him who died on the cross and the faith is named after him.

We need to get back to the original mission and that is to serve those in need. The VA needs to utilize these people to serve the far too many in need today, not months and years from now.

Senior Chaplain Kathie Costos

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Less than 20 percent of VA facilities use Chaplains

In addition, less than 20 percent of facilities reported utilizing the Chaplain service for liaison and outreach to faith-based organizations in the community (e.g., inviting faith-based organizations in the area to a community meeting at a VA Medical Center (VAMC) to explain VHA services available, having a VA Chaplain accompany the OIF/OEF coordinator to post-deployment events in the community). Although facilities would need to tailor strategies to consider local demographics and resources, a system-wide effort at community based outreach appears prudent.

Less than 20% use Chaplains! As posted several times on this blog, the VA needs to change the rules of who they will allow to be Chaplains when you consider how few Chaplains they use. They need to be all over the country, especially in rural areas where help is hard to find. They need to be in every community doing the outreach work that has to be done to catch up to the need. One day we may actually get ahead of this but right now, we need to do everything humanly possible on an emergency basis just to catch up to the need. It is ridiculous that the tool of Chaplains is there, trained and ready to go but while the International Fellowship of Chaplains is good enough for the police, fire fighters and emergency responders, they are not good enough to take care of the veterans that are not being taken care of right now, today!

Everything that Dr. Michael Shepherd recommended is exactly what I've been trying to do since I started doing all of this. It is exactly what frustrates me the most. We know what needs to be done but they are not doing it. How many lives, marriages, families, careers and futures could have been spared needless suffering if they implemented all of this years ago when we finally understood what needed to be done?

This is the whole testimony

Testimony By Michael Shepherd M.D.
Physician, Office of Healthcare Inspections
Office of the Inspector General
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today on suicide prevention and the Office of Inspector General (OIG) report, Implementing the VHA’s Mental Health Strategic Plan Initiatives for Suicide Prevention. My statement today is based on that report as well as individual cases that the OIG has reviewed and reported on involving veteran suicides and accompanying mental health issues. In the process of these inspections, clinicians in our office have had the opportunity to meet with and listen to the concerns of surviving family members, and to witness the devastating impact that veteran mental health issues and suicide have had on their lives.

The May 2007 OIG report reviewed initiatives from the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) mental health strategic plan pertaining to suicide prevention and assessed the extent to which these initiatives had been implemented. In prior testimony, we have stressed the importance of the need for VA to continue moving forward toward full implementation of suicide prevention initiatives from the mental health strategic plan. In terms of other changes VA could make, we would offer the following observations:

Community Based Outreach – In our report, we noted that while several facilities had implemented innovative community based suicide prevention outreach programs, (e.g., facility presentations to New York City Police Department officers who are Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF) veterans, participation by mental health staff in local Spanish radio and television shows) the majority of facilities did not report community based linkages and outreach aimed at suicide prevention. In addition, less than 20 percent of facilities reported utilizing the Chaplain service for liaison and outreach to faith-based organizations in the community (e.g., inviting faith-based organizations in the area to a community meeting at a VA Medical Center (VAMC) to explain VHA services available, having a VA Chaplain accompany the OIF/OEF coordinator to post-deployment events in the community). Although facilities would need to tailor strategies to consider local demographics and resources, a system-wide effort at community based outreach appears prudent.

Timeliness from Referral to Mental Health Evaluation – In our report we noted that while most facilities self-reported that three-fourths or more of those patients with a moderate level of depression referred by primary care providers are seen within 2 weeks of referral, approximately 5 percent reported a significant 4-8 week wait. Because these patients are at risk for progression of symptom severity and possible development of suicidal ideation, Veterans Integrated Service Network leadership should work with facility directors to ensure that once referred, patients with a moderate level of depression and those recently discharged following hospitalization are seen in a timely manner at all VAMCs and Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs).

Co-Occurring Combat Stress Related Illness and Substance Use – Substance use may contribute to the severity of a concurrent or underlying mental health condition such as major depression. The presence of alcohol may cause or exacerbate impulsivity and acute alcohol use is associated with completed suicide. In a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Longitudinal Assessment of Mental Health Problems Among Active and Reserve Component Soldiers Returning from the Iraq War, Milliken et al., found that soldiers frequently reported alcohol concerns on the Post Deployment Health Assessment and Reassessments “yet very few were referred to alcohol treatment.”

Regardless of why a patient begins to abuse alcohol, with frequent and/or excessive use, physiologic and psychologic drives develop until alcohol misuse ultimately takes on a life of its own that is independent of patient history and circumstance. Functional ability and quality of life become dually impacted by both underlying anxiety and depressive symptoms and co-morbid substance use issues. For patients with concurrent conditions, an effective treatment paradigm may require addressing the primacy of not only anxiety/depressive conditions but also of co-morbid substance use disorders. VA should consider augmenting services that address substance use disorders co-morbid with combat stress related illness for inclusion in a comprehensive program aimed at suicide prevention.

Enhanced Access to Mental Health Care – Treatments for mental health problems may take time to show effect. For example, antidepressant medication, when indicated, may take several weeks to several months to effect symptom reduction or remission. For some patients, treatment may necessitate multiple visits that occur consistently over time and may entail multiple modalities including individual and/or group evidence based psychotherapy, medication management, and/or readjustment counseling. Therefore, efforts that enhance patient access to appropriate treatment may help facilitate both patient engagement and the potential for treatment benefit.

For example, ongoing enhancements in the availability of mental health services at CBOCs may help mitigate vocational and logistical challenges facing some veterans residing in more rural areas who otherwise may have to travel longer distances to appointments at the parent VAMC.

In certain locations, the VA may want to consider expanding care during off-tour hours to increase the ability for some transitioning OIF/OEF veterans to access mental health treatment while minimizing interference with occupational, and/or educational obligations. This would be consistent with the recovery model for mental health treatment which emphasizes not only symptom reduction but also promotion and return to functional status.

Facilitating Early Family Involvement – Mental health symptoms can have a significant and disruptive impact on family and domestic relationships. Relational discord has been cited as one factor associated with suicide in active duty military and returning veterans. In addition, some studies indicate that family involvement in a patient’s treatment may enhance the ability for some patients to maintain treatment adherence. VA should consider efforts to bolster early family participation in patient treatment.

Coordination between VHA and Non-VHA Providers – When patients receive mental health treatment from both VHA and non-VHA providers, seamless communication becomes an increasingly complex challenge. This fragmentation of care is particularly worrisome in periods of patient destabilization or following discharge from a hospital or residential mental health program. VA’s Office of Mental Health Services should consider development of innovative methods or procedures to facilitate flow of information for patients receiving simultaneous treatment from VA and non-VA providers while adhering to relevant privacy statutes. In addition, VA’s Readjustment Counseling Service and VA’s Office of Patient Care Services should pursue further efforts to heighten communication and record sharing for patients receiving both counseling at Vet Centers and treatment at VAMCs and/or affiliated CBOCs.

Mr. Chairman, thank you again for this opportunity to testify. I would be pleased to answer any questions that you or other Members of the Committee may have.

Here are some more links to the hearing

Opening Statements
Hon. Bob Filner Chairman, and a Representative in Congress from the State of California
Hon. Steve Buyer, Ranking Repubican Member, and a Representative in Congress from the State of Indiana
Hon. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, a Representative in Congress from the State of South Dakota
Hon. Harry E. Mitchell, a Representative in Congress from the State of Arizona
Hon. Shelley Berkeley, a Representative in Congress from the State of Nevada
Hon. Jeff Miller, a Representative in Congress from the State of Florida
Hon. Ginny Brown-Waite, a Representative in Congress from the State of Florida
Hon. Timothy J. Walz, a Representative in Congress from the State of Minnesota
Hon. James P. Moran, a Representative in Congress from the State of Virginia
Witness Testimonies
Panel 1
The Honorable James B Peake M.D., The Secretary, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Accompanied By:
Gerald Cross, Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Health, Veterans Health Administration
Ira Katz M.D., Deputy Chief Patient Care Services Officer for Mental Health, Veterans Health Administration
Panel 2
Stephen L Rathbun Ph.D., Interim Head & Associate Professor of Biostatistics, Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, University of Georgia
M. David Rudd Ph.D., Professor and Chair, Department of Psychology, Texas Tech University
Ronald Wm. Maris Ph.D., Distinguished Professor Emeritus, University of South Carolina

Friday, May 2, 2008

US Military Coordinated Day of Prayer Events with Christian Right Group

US Military Coordinated Day of Prayer Events with Christian Right Group

Jason Leopold

The Public Record

May 01, 2008

April 30, 2008 - At least half-a-dozen active-duty military officials have been working closely with a task force headed by the far-right fundamentalist Christians planning religious events at military installations around the country to commemorate Thursday’s National Day of Prayer.

In working directly with the National Day of Prayer (NDP) Task Force and agreeing to work as event coordinators, these military officials not only violated constitutional provisions governing the separation of church and state but they also signed an oath that states they “believe that the Holy Bible is the inerrant Word of The Living God” and that “Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the only One by which I can obtain salvation and have an ongoing relationship with God,” according to materials posted on NDP Task Force’s website.

Furthermore, the declaration signed by the military officials says that they promise to “ensure a strong, consistent Christian message throughout the nation” and that National Day of Prayer events scheduled to take place at their military installations “will be conducted solely by Christians.”

Lisa Crump, manager of the NDP Task Force’s local coordinators, said that volunteers who are interested in becoming event coordinators, including members of the military, must complete click here "a simple application with contact data and statement of faith, confirming your commitment to Christ is all that's needed to get you on the way to becoming a [National Day of Prayer] Task Force volunteer coordinator."
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Has the military suddenly forgotten the rich history of chaplains of all faiths in service taking care of the spiritual needs of all the armed forces?

"This inter-faith shrine...will stand through long generations to teach Americans that as men can die heroically as brothers, so they should live together in mutual faith and good will."
President Harry S Truman

Rabbi Alexander Goode
Reverend George L. Fox
Reverend Clark V. Polling
Father John P. Washington
During World War II some 8,000 Army chaplains dedicated their lives and service to the fighting men of The Greatest Generation. Though these chaplains earned 2,453 high military awards for their valor, none received the Medal of Honor.

Four of the seventy-seven who gave their lives in service received one of the most unusual and distinct medals in history. Ordered by special Congressional action, its intent was to carry the same weight and prestige as the Medal of Honor.

It is known simply as The Four Chaplains Medal, and calls to memory four men of God, one Jewish, one Catholic, and two Protestant, who overcame the boundaries of denomination to become brothers serving the same Father.

This is a Chaplain in Iwo Jima

This is a Chaplain in Korea

This is a Chaplain in Vietnam

These are American soldiers who happen to be Muslim
Does the military suddenly think that their soldiers are of any lesser value if they are not Christian, or a particular branch of Christianity? I'm really getting tired of reading reports about this kind of practice. This was always supposed to be about taking care of the spiritual needs of all the troops as they are, in the faith they practice or taking care of them as humans if they have no faith at all. Don't they understand that they are not only hurting the troops by making them feel less worthy and pushing them away from seeking any spiritual council at all? They feel they are not being embraced but forced into deciding to belong or be an outcast.