Native Americans have always been ready to serve our country. They have the highest record of military service per capita in the United States. For example, over 42,000 Native Americans served in Vietnam, and 90 percent of those were volunteers.
However, they are also some of the least likely to turn to the VA for health care needs due to historical trauma and the lack of mainstream understanding of Native American healing practices.
Jesse Brown VA is working to understand the cultural nuances of healing and incorporate the Native American healing practices into its medical center through services such as acupuncture and healing touch.
One way Jesse Brown is reaching out to Native American veterans is through its Minority Veteran Program Coordinator, Debbie Rafael Shanley. Shanley is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who serves as an advocate for minority veterans by conducting outreach activities to promote the awareness and use of VA benefits and services.
For more information on the Minority Veteran program, contact Shanley at ([email protected]) or (312) 569-8453 or (773) 565-5384.
One event Debbie participated in for outreach was the 8th National Gathering of American Indian Veterans; it was held in Wheaton, Illinois, the weekend of July 15-17. This event has historically attracted over 1,800 visitors and over 650 Native American veterans.
This year’s gathering focused on healing practices. Traditional Native American healing not only involves physical healing but also mental, emotional and spiritual healing.
Jesse Brown VA had multiple representatives at the event, including Misa Lopez, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) Assistance Program Coordinator. This is the first year of the National Gathering of American Indian Veterans that IPV was addressed openly.
The Gathering offered healing circles where Misa and her counterparts partnered with Native American veteran facilitators to offer support and healing to those in attendance.
According to a study by the American Institute for Justice, four out of five American Indian and Alaskan Native adults have experienced violence in their lifetimes. This includes 56 percent who have experienced sexual violence and 55 percent who have experienced physical violence by an intimate partner.
The VA IPV assistance program provides comprehensive and integrated services through a trauma informed and person-centered approach for veterans and their families. The program supports veterans in the way the veteran needs them, typically through services such as interventions, resources, safety planning, and linkage to VA and community supportive services.
Additional information is available by visiting Jesse Brown VA Health Care by calling (312) 569-8387 or contacting the Veterans Crisis line at 988 and pressing “1” to be connected to a representative.
You are not alone. The Jesse Brown VA Medical Center is available to support you in all of your health care needs and will faithfully serve all who served our country.