National Park College on Oct. 26 hosted the Veterans Mental Health Summit of the Ouachita. Presenters spoke on a variety of veteran-related topics such as homelessness, suicide prevention and court treatment.
Several Arkansas Veterans Affairs members attended to share what they do for the state’s veterans and what programs are available.
First up with helpful information was Garland County veteran service officer Stanley Bee who said the county has the fourth-largest veteran contingent in the state, that veteran ID cards will become available beginning Nov. 11 and he is available for veterans to talk about claims, benefits and health care. Bee also concerns himself with house-bound veterans and correct information given to vets.
“There’s a lot of misinformation out there,” Bee said.
Dr. Irving Kuo, associate chief of staff for mental health services, introduced three components of PTSD – the impact of homelessness, interaction with treatment courts and suicide prevention, showing how the three make for a vicious cycle.
Kuo said PTSD puts a person in a super hyperactive state, hyper-alert and thus begin to avoid situations the person sees as dangerous. They think of previous incidents and occurrences and the body then numbs itself. “Because to feel something is too much,” said Kuo.
“It’s a very debilitating condition. The person no longer feels like they fit in and relationships are
compromised. Alcohol becomes an issue and this is where substance abuse begins,” he added.
Because of these behaviors some veterans get kicked out of the house and this then leads to
homelessness which can lead to brushes with the law and incarceration. Then as the veteran sinks into
depression, suicidal thoughts begin. “There is so much pain they don’t see options. This is how all this is
interconnected,” said Kuo.
He said that meds don’t work well to address the core PTSD symptoms. Psychotherapy is better. It
makes the vet look at what’s happened.
Five year Army veteran Chris Short told his story, saying the Kuo’s description fit him to a tee. He
described how he started drinking and using drugs, showing up to work drunk, getting in trouble with
the law. He got married, became isolated, divorced, violent, and then learned of Veterans Treatment
Courts. He went for treatment, got a conditional release, got a job which lead to a better job and now
works with veterans. He sees his recovery as holistic, which gave him a second chance and hope.
Short, Steve Ezell, Judge Meredith Switzer and Phyllis Wilkins then spoke about veteran treatment
courts in a session facilitated by Stephen Ezelle a disabled veteran’s outreach program specialist.
Switzer said she wishes there wasn’t a need for veteran’s court, as she talked about “justice-involved”
vets. “I’m just a point of entry,” she said as she described how she, as a judge, monitors the vet’s
progress and compliance. “I want to see there’s a plan in place and compliance.”
Short said he helps by mentoring other vets and stressed that a veteran in need must first want to
change their situation.
Wilkins works with a veteran’s justice outreach program to take a holistic approach. Permanent housing,
food, mentoring, furniture and activities are a part of what the program provides.
Marine Corps veteran David Elmore told of his service and being severely injured in an ambush after leaving
Marble Mountain in Vietnam. Elmore also spoke about the programs called Blues in the Schools and

Rhythm Warriors Music Project where vets can turn their memories into songs as a way to release
emotions from traumatic situations they had experienced.
Next, a panel on suicide prevention spoke, consisting of Susie Reynolds Reece, executive director of
Suicide Prevention Allies, Kim Crutchfield and Hollis. Reece told the attendees the tragic story of living
with an abusive stepmother and the suicide of her beloved veteran father, David Reynolds. He left her a
note that has stuck with her all these years and is why she got into the suicide prevention field.
Crutchfield said, “There is still a stigma about suicide because we don’t talk about it. We can’t make
those suicidal thoughts go away, but we can let people know it’s OK. A lot of people go through it. Just
talk about it,” she said. “Treatment has come a long way.
Event organizer Amy Thomason, Community Liaison with Arkansas Hospice, told the Hot Springs Village
Voice she hopes this will be an annual event. For more information contact her at
athomason@arkansashospice.org or at 501-318- 9992.
Dr. Kuo can be reached at irving.kuo@va.gov.
Stanley Bee is at sbee@garlandcounty.org or 501-622- 3795.
Reece is at susiereece@catholichealth.net or 501-622- 2105.
Event facilitator Ezelle at Stephen.ezelle@arkansas.gov or 501-701- 1616 and and Wilkins is at
Phyllis.Wilkins@va.gov.
Other resources for veterans include “The Veterans Crisis Line,” at 1-800-273-8255 (then press 1) and
“Coaching to Care,” at 1-888- 823-7458.
At Arkansas Hospice is chaplain/veterans services coordinator David Kenser at
dkenser@arkansashospice.org or 501-748- 3456.