SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The San Diego County Board of Supervisors Tuesday unanimously instructed staff to report back in four months on ways to support the estimated 250,000 veterans in the region.
At a special afternoon hearing, former military members and representatives of community groups talked about their experiences, programs and needs. The discussion covered employment, pulling together services, and support and prevention efforts.
Joe Qualls, who fought in Iraq, said he was overwhelmed by post-traumatic stress disorder.
"By the time I got back from Iraq, my belief in God and my belief in humanity were crushed," Qualls said. "It took me, and unfortunately a lot of others, hitting rock bottom before someone reached out to help."
That person was a chaplain who pointed him to local services, Qualls said. He said after losing his position as a police officer in Washington state and contemplating suicide, he moved back to his native San Diego and enrolled in a program run by the county Health and Human Services Agency.
He said he has since overcome PTSD and is an advocate for HHSA programs.
"I don't think I've ever felt better than I do today about our efforts to assist veterans," Supervisor Ron Roberts said after listening to Qualls.
Officials with the Military Mentoring Initiative, which runs a job shadowing program with the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce, said an estimated 80 percent of veterans don't know what they want to do when they leave the military.
Charles Blake, a former Marine from San Diego, said he was interested in becoming a nurse. But after going through the job shadowing program, he determined he would rather get into respiratory therapy. He said he already has a job offer from Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside when he graduates from training in his new field next May.
Supervisor Pam Slater-Price said Blake went through a great program that gives people hands-on experience.
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