The Tacoma Vet Center is providing a more convenient option to veterans by bringing mobile counseling services and outreach programs to Thurston County.
Instead of a brick and mortar office, a $300,000 38-foot vehicle parks at the City of Lacey twice a month to provide easy access for area vets.
The mobile vet center began in mid-December, and has been picking up clients ever since. It’s one of 70 mobile units nationwide.
The idea to bring the unit to Lacey came from the city.
“We were prompted by a call from city hall,” said Brandon Jones, Tacoma Vet Center readjustment counseling outreach technician. “They wanted us to come and assess the needs in the area.”
The Tacoma-based unit is responsible for veterans west of the Cascades. A second unit based out of Spokane handles the eastern portion of the state.
The Lacey City Hall parking lot is one of the unit’s regular stops. There are nearly 21,000 veterans in Thurston County, said Lacey Mayor Virgil Clarkson.
“We see a good number of vets here,” said K. Mark Buckler, Tacoma Vet Center readjustment counseling therapist Thursday. “There is a real demand.”
The mobile center has one counselor and one outreach technician on board to offer a variety of services, including marriage and family counseling, post-traumatic stress disorder information, suicide prevention and community education.
Veterans can also gain access to benefit information.
Buckler had three appointments scheduled Thursday, a client-load that is similar to what is seen at the Tacoma office during the same time frame.
The mobile unit is available from 11 a.m.–3 p.m. the second and fourth Thursday of each month.
In addition to the Lacey stop, the center also spends each Wednesday on one of four Tacoma-area college campuses, including Pierce College, Bates College, Tacoma Community College and Clover Park Technical College.
“We get out where we can meet the vets,” Buckler said. “We also work with other Veterans Affairs offices for outreach.”
The team has plans to reach out to veterans in Forks, Aberdeen, Chehalis, Burlington, Elma and Kitsap this year.
The next step is to offer video sessions with physicians from the moible center through a program called TeleMed. The program works similar to Skype.
“It’s great once we get everything online,” Jones said. “It’s the next phase in the modernization.”