Colonel (Ret.) Kent Crossley is no stranger to the military. He is a U.S. Army veteran with a 30-year military career that began at the West Point Military Academy and ended when he retired from the Army in 2010. He has served with the 5th, 10th, and 12th Special Forces Group (Airborne), the 364th Civil Affairs Brigade in Iraq, and served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
Crossley is now the Executive Director of Centerstone Military Services, a company of Centerstone which is a pillar in the veteran community. For over 60 years Centerstone has been providing a full range of mental health, addiction, intellectual and developmental disabilities services. Centerstone has helped over 6,000 veterans and their services extend to the children of service members. The family is a large focus just as the veteran themselves and more than ever with the internet letting everyone keep in touch the dynamic of the military family is more complex. Crossley told AMN:
“You can imagine being the child of a service member and having to see your parent go off on deployments, sometimes quite routinely. It is especially difficult if both parents are deployed and the children end up living with grandparents during deployment.”
Centerstone provides community-based mental health and addiction services; a comprehensive array of mental health services, substance abuse and addictions treatment, educational services, housing and support to a variety of Americans in need.
The company’s core values and philosophies focus on recovery, resiliency, and education for anyone suffering from mental health disabilities. As anyone involved in the military community knows, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a major mental health issue affecting veterans.
The constant anxiety and psychological changes the disorder forces on veterans can cause them to turn to substance abuse or make it extremely tough for them to hold a job to support themselves and their families. The constant torment caused by the disorder has led to roughly 5,000-8,000 veterans taking their lives every year. That’s 22 veterans a day, or one every 65 minutes. Part of the problem stems from the stigma associated with mental health issues. He told us that the perception is beginning to change from when he served:
“New generations are not as afraid to ask for help. In my generation you’re 10 feet tall and bulletproof, otherwise you’re weak. Along with military leadership we’re trying to change that perception.”
In recent years Centerstone has focused their attention on helping the men and women that have sacrificed everything to protect our great nation and the core values Americans hold near and dear to their hearts. Centerstone Military Services refuses to let let service members, veterans, and their families who sacrificed their mental well-being, go the road ahead, alone. They currently have three programs in place to help veterans cope with PTSD, help homeless veterans and their families find homes, and to create a tight-knit network of care providers dedicated to increasing cultural competence in mental health centers and health care providers.
They have helped veterans recently returning from deployments in the Middle East all the way back to WWII. One of the veterans that received help from Centerstone is a survivor of the Battle of the Bulge that recently suffered from a stroke. Centerstone has been able to help this veteran and his family while he recovers.
The organization recently received its sixth renewal grant from the Department of Veterans Affairs which will amount to over $6 million being invested to help veterans who are at risk of becoming homeless over the course of the next three years.
One of their current focuses is on helping veterans and their families gain access to the resources they need to successfully transition to, or maintain, permanent housing. In addition to helping veterans make informed decisions, understand their options, and obtain access to available benefits, Centerstone links those in need with other resources such as housing services, transportation, legal aid and income support services.
The benefits of this program are immediately evident. Families are able to keep a roof over their heads and raise their families in stable environments.
This type of service is crucial to military families. The nature of military life can be somewhat nomadic. Service members are sometimes deployed without their families to bases hundreds or thousands of miles away from homes that they’ve established while stationed at a particular base. With one military parent it’s difficult to build stability and with two military parents can be nearly impossible. The cost of mortgages and rising housing costs force some service members to turn to family members for support. Children are sometimes forced to live with family members because the cost of living prevents families from finding adequate off-base housing.
However, Crossley told American Military News that one of the biggest obstacles Centerstone has faced is breaking down mental health stigma in military culture and changing the public’s perception of veterans with these issues. Crossley told said that many veterans are resistant to accept help due to fears that they could be perceived as weak for addressing these life changing issues.
Crossley stated that vast differences between veteran groups make treating each veteran a unique experience. For example, Vietnam veterans are less likely to accept help and seek treatment compared to soldiers that have recently returned. Negative public perception at the time of the Vietnam war, sometimes paired with years of veterans struggling without seeking treatment, have made this group one of the most challenging groups to treat. He told us that millennials and younger soldiers also face unique challenges due to years of conflict they have been associated with as a service family member. He told us:
“You have someone who was a child on 9/11. Well, they’re adults now, they’ve served, and they’re trying to adjust to a very challenging world”
Crossley went on to say that the most significant thing one can do is simply reach out to the veterans in your life. Whether it be a family member, friend, neighbor, or even an acquaintance. Simply extending a helping hand or lending an ear can make a massive difference in that veteran’s life. It may even influence them to seek professional treatment if any is needed.
To learn more about the programs offered by Centerstone, visit the links below:
Courage Beyond: a program that provides confidential, low-cost services and supports to warriors and their loved ones facing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other invisible wounds of military service.
Supportive Services For Veteran Families: Prevents homelessness by helping qualifying veterans and their families gain access to the resources they need in order to successfully transition to or maintain permanent housing.
Indiana Veterans Behavioral Health Network: Brings key partners together across the state to improve behavioral health and well-being among Indiana’s rural veterans through increased access to care. Centerstone is one of their selected behavioral health service providers delivery care in Southern Indiana.
Follow this link to see how you can give back to this organization that has done so much for our nation’s veterans.
Editor’s Note: This piece has been edited to reflect American Military News’ current editorial standards.