Since opening earlier this year in Killeen, the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Endeavors provides free to low-cost mental health care services to veterans and military families.
“We see couples, we see children and we do family therapy,” said Dr. Iman Williams Christians, the clinic director.
The clinic opened its doors in March of 2018 and at 1103 W. Stan Schlueter Loop in Killeen.
“You can just walk in and we see you,” Williams Christians said. “We see what your needs are and we get you to the next step which is scheduling an appointment. It’s that easy.”
A referral is not needed. If necessary, Endeavors also provides child-care and transportation if needed.
“Whatever we need to do to get you through the door, we are going to do,” Williams Christians said.
The clinic gears its services toward post 9/11 veterans as well as family members of veterans, reservists, National Guard and active-duty service members, regardless of their dependent status.
“A family member is who the veteran determines to be a family member,” said Endeavors Outreach Director Ovi Rivera, a retired master sergeant. “You don’t have to be a blood relative or a spouse to receive the services here.”
The Killeen clinic is part of the Cohen Veterans Network, which was founded by philanthropist Steven A. Cohen, who made a $275 million commitment to launch a network of mental health clinics in April of 2016 to serve veterans and families, according to the network’s website. Cohen Veterans Network currently operates 10 clinics, and plans to open 25 clinics by 2020.
The clinic seeks to complement the care of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. It also provides services to veterans who are not eligible to receive care in the VA system.
“We see people regardless of how they were discharged from the military,” Williams Christians said. “If it was dishonorable or other than honorable, we do see them because they face even more difficulties.”
Besides their counseling and case management services, the clinic provides life skills and wellness groups as well as specialty workshops.
“We are getting ready to start a yoga group and a journaling group,” Williams Christians said. “Those are less clinically oriented and it’s easier to get people in the door doing something that’s fun and meaningful. It helps them to feel more comfortable to seek services here.”
Especially the military community is often opposed to seek mental health care.
Outreach director Rivera served for 22 years in the Army and knows about the struggles service members and their families face.
“The perception is that we are strong and we don’t want to show any signs of weakness so a lot of veterans don’t seek help,” he said.
But starting a new life in the civilian world after the military can be difficult.
“It’s a different system,” Rivera said. “The military and its ranks were our identity and now it’s lost and I have to deal with this new normal. You have to reinvent yourself and depending on your MOS, the first step is to translate your skills and your job descriptions.”
Rivera helps veterans daily with writing their resumes and translating their military skills to civilian standards. He also urges his patients to use their benefits and pursue a higher education.
“Going to school helped me during the first two years to completely transform and now I am a civilian,” he said. “I accepted I am no longer master sergeant Rivera, now I am Ovi.”
Rivera sought help after his deployments when he started feeling depressed. The support he received enabled him to finish his education and start a new life after his military career.
“When I tell people in the community I am taking care or my physical well-being … everybody praises you … but the moment you are mentioning some mental health issues they ask what’s wrong with you,” he said. “Seek help and don’t let the peer pressure stop you from getting it.”