Dave Howatt is thrilled with news of a service coming to Prince Edward Island to provide treatment and support for veterans like him who suffer from operational stress injuries (OSI).
“My thoughts are it is a long time coming,’’ says Howatt, vice-president of the P.E.I. Royal Canadian Legion Provincial Command.
“I believe it is going to be a great asset for veterans suffering from OSIs.’’
Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay announced Wednesday the federal government, in partnership with Health P.E.I. and New Brunswick’s Horizon Health Network, is opening a new OSI satellite service site in Stratford to veterans as well as members of the Canadian Armed Forces and the RCMP.
The site will provide specialized, evidence-based assessment, treatment and support services for operational stress injuries.
Staff members are trained in treating a range of mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression and insomnia.
“Canadians fully understand that it is the veterans that put their lives out front for our democracy and freedoms…that is why Canadians feel that it is vital that we provide these services for veterans,’’ says MacAulay.
Premier Dennis King echoed MacAulay’s sentiment in noting Islanders share a “deep sense of gratitude for those who choose to serve and protect us and keep our communities and families safe.’’
King says individuals will no longer need to travel to Fredericton, N.B., to receive care for operational stress injuries.
Howatt anticipates many veterans will seek help from the new satellite service – veterans who may not have reached out for help in the past.
“Admitting you have a problem is a big problem for a veteran because we’ve always been trained to soldier on, to suck it up, and I believe that would be the same with the RCMP,’’ he says.
He adds while it is difficult for veterans to ask for help, he believes they will be more willing to reach out for assistance now that help is available in P.E.I.
Howatt, who had a 36-year military career that saw him do operational tours in Egypt, Cyprus and Bosnia, says he was unable to travel to get help when his PTSD really kicked in a few years ago.
“I couldn’t drive to New Brunswick because part of my triggers was disturbed roadways,’’ he explains.
“So, if there was a repair done on a road, I would swerve to miss it because I was scared of landmines and stuff like that.’’
As a result, he was unable to get to New Brunswick and ended up doing teleconferencing, which, he adds, is no way to get treatment.
“So, having this satellite (service) on the Island is a great, great bonus for veterans suffering from OSIs,’’ he says.
He plans to use the service. He also plans to steer other veterans to seek help from the new site, which is expected to open in January in a yet-to-be-determined location, according to a spokesman with Veterans Affairs Canada.
“If it helps one veteran, it is worth it,’’ says Howatt.
“I will definitely be going and checking it out.’’
Dr. Julie Devlin, manager of the operational stress injury clinic with Horizon Health Network, says the network is pleased and honoured to share its expertise with P.E.I.
“Since opening our OSI clinic in Fredericton in 2008 our experienced clinicians have been providing mental health assessments and treatments to clients and their families who are suffering from work related stress and trauma, and many of these clients were from P.E.I.,’’ she says.
“With the opening of Horizon’s satellite site, Islanders will now have the support they need in their own province. This alone will help in their recovery and rehabilitation – and that’s what matters most.’’