Officials announce new mental health program to support veterans in Nassau County

The average suicide rate among veterans is 17 per day, according to the Department of Veteran Affairs. Nassau County officials are taking steps to help change that statistic.
When he returned from Iraq, Marine veteran Joseph Donarumma from Levittown says he dealt with depression, anxiety and alcohol and substance abuse problems.
His struggle with transitioning to civilian life led to thoughts of suicide.
“The thought was on my mind probably every day, more times than I care to remember,” says Donarumma. “There was acts. There was thoughts.”

On Thursday, officials announced a plan to help veterans with a new mental health awareness program.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran says the county will hire two social workers who specialize in assisting veterans with military distress issues.
“The counselors will be trained to support veterans combating mental illness, suicidal thoughts, substance abuse disorder, emotional distress,” says Curran.
The hope is to break the stigma of seeking help for mental illness.
“You’re not alone and it’s OK to have help,” says Marine veteran Kevin Colon. “It’s okay to need help, and I hope that message carries.”
Donarumma says he is in a good place in his life now after he received the counseling he needed. He believes the new crisis counselors the county will hire will make a difference.
The program will use $250,000 in American Rescue Plan funding. It will be free for all veterans, regarding of discharge status.
“We want to make sure our veterans have the complete care that they need,” says Curran.
The counselors will provide help at the Veterans Services Agency in East Meadow Monday through Friday and at the Mental Health Association of Nassau County in Hempstead.