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Helping those who serve

Health care professionals sought for Returning Veterans Project


by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JOSH KULLA - Katherina Alexandre, a marriage and family therapist, and Doug Wingate, an acupuncturist, both volunteer for Returning Veternans Project.Wilsonville’s Katherina Alexandre is looking for a few good health care practitioners to give back to those who gave to their country.

Alexandre, a licensed marriage and family therapist, is a volunteer for Returning Veterans Project, a nonprofit organization sorely in need of volunteers.

The group offers free and confidential health care services to current service members and returning veterans and their families in Oregon and Southwest Washington. Volunteers include mental health professionals, acupuncturists, naturopaths, chiropractors, massage therapists and other practitioners. The goal: to reintegrate veterans back into society.

Returning to civilian life can be hard, especially after serving in a war like Iraq or Afghanistan. Veterans may suffer from physical, emotional and psychological trauma. Their families, as well, may experience their own challenges.

Alexandre got involved in the Returning Veterans Project just a few short months ago and now is determined to get more help for veterans in Clackamas County.

She learned of the project through a coworker, acupuncturist Doug Wingate, who already was volunteering.

Having just opened her office, Alexandre was hesitant to take veterans on a pro bono basis. But then she saw the need.

“I started getting all these calls,” she said. Since each specialist can only take on one pro bono client at a time, according to the nonprofit’s rules, she had to turn veterans away without being able to refer them to others in the area.

Alexandre said she is the only marriage and family therapist volunteer in Wilsonville and its surrounding area.

“Veterans coming back need help. I wanted to help them,” she said. “There’s only me out here. There isn’t enough practitioners out here.”

Alexandre has a tender spot for all veterans.

“Veterans, if I see them in uniform or if I see them going to join the Army ... it’s just a soft spot. I’m thankful,” she said.

Alexandre’s twin brother, Michael, joined the Army when he was 19.

“I think that just devastated me. I thought he was going to die,” Alexandre said. “It affected me.”

Carole Levine is the founder and board president of Returning Veterans Project. In a video on the nonprofit’s website, she said, “It was the summer of 2004 and I was reading daily reports about the war, and the more I read the more I knew I had to do something, and what I know how to do was therapy.”

In just two days Levine had rounded up 25 therapists to offer up their services to veterans.

Those actively serving and those returning from service face a variety of challenges. Those about to deploy or redeploy can be under a lot of stress and pressure of the uncertainty of the future and their safe return. For the families left behind, the stress and worry can be overwhelming.

Veterans returning from service often need help readjusting to civilian life. Couples may need marriage counseling to reconnect and learn how to communicate. Some veterans returned injured or have post-traumatic stress disorder or have brain injuries, and many of them do not have insurance.

“We want to make it easy for them,” Alexandre said of getting services. “They served our country.”

The services through Returning Veterans Project include free counseling and therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic and naturopathic medicine and massage therapy. All services are kept confidential.

“It gives me the opportunity to do something, and seeing just one client is not enough,” Alexandre said. “There has got to be a way to do this, to get more practitioners out here to help.”

For practitioners interested in volunteering, the next orientation is July 16. For more information about locating a provider or volunteering, visit returningveterans.org.

Wingate offers drop-in acupuncture on Saturdays from 3 to 6 p.m. at Soul Pilates and Wellness, 29020 SW Town Center Loop E, Wilsonville. Veterans can receive acupuncture treatments for free.




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