As the CEO of a substance abuse recovery center in San Diego, Scott Silverman has seen his share of veterans who are struggling to make things meet upon leaving the military.
But one statistic that sticks with Silverman is one of the reasons why he’s starting a new venture aimed exclusively at veterans who need help.
“A lot of people, I’ve learned over the years, when they run into barriers, they kind of give up,” said Silverman, who fought addictions of his own but recently celebrated 30 years of sobriety and is the CEO of Confidential Recovery in San Diego. “But I heard this statistic from one of our supervisors in community management, that 80 percent of the veterans who have taken their own life, have not accessed any kind of mental health support.”
Because of tragic statistics like that one, Silverman has started the Veterans Navigation Center in San Diego after hearing that many veterans don’t have the necessary resources to transition successfully from active duty to civilian life.
The Veterans Navigation Center is only currently operating in the San Diego area, but Silverman has plans to grow the program nationally. During his interactions with veterans at Confidential Recovery, Silverman found that the toughest hurdle for many veterans initially out of the military who need help is simply that they’re afraid or too proud to ask for help.
“The number one issue is the fear of frustration, or denial of not knowing how to ask for help from an ego perspective,” he said. “In order to eliminate those barriers, an individual really needs to have a coach or a navigator, a supporter, a case manager, a mentor, whatever label that one wants to put on it. What we’re going to try to be is that person. Once they get that roadmap, they see what they have to do and know they can fall back on us if they need to. We can help hold their hand at whatever level they might need.”
The Veterans Navigation Center uses veterans to help make the connection with their peers who are seeking assistance in areas such as: acquiring benefits; developing work, life and skills training; substance abuse treatment; mental health counseling for depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder or trauma; family marriage and counseling; legal assistance; and finding housing.
One goal of the not-for-profit organization is to help individuals seeking help to better navigate the Department of Veterans Administration to unlock the recovery benefits it provides veterans. The relationship can serve as a two-way street as the VA will refer some individuals to the Veterans Navigation Center for assistance, but Silverman also hears from veterans who struggle to make a connection with the VA.
“The VA has a huge system and infrastructure, so we can find ways to build those bridges,” Silverman said. “We’ll be able to get people from A to B quicker, and from B to C more efficiently, and then from D to Z by being there as a support component.”