Parkland mental health professional and colleagues launch non-profit to help veterans
By Bill Johnson / November 1, 2015

No soldier with an injured mind should be left behind.

That simple declaration sums up the purpose of a recently formed non-profit organization to help troubled veterans, especially those who have returned from Iraq and other overseas deployments, and their families.

The founding members of "Peace and Life for Veterans" have decades of experience in the field of mental health, counseling individuals and families, and treating a variety of conditions that can trouble men and women who serve in war zones.

Bart Ostroff of Parkland, a board certified hypnotherapist, is the organization treasurer. He has decades of experience with a variety of therapies. Although he's trained in hypnosis, he emphasizes that hypnosis is only one of many therapies and is used only when someone chooses it. It can be effective in dealing with some phobias, he says. For 20 years he has been approved by the state to train professionals to use clinical hypnosis and has conducted more than 300 classes.
Parkland mental health professional and colleagues launch non-profit to help veterans

Therapists know that not everyone is the same, he says, so different therapies are most effective for different people. It depends on what they're comfortable with, Ostroff says.

The organization president, Linda Materazzi of Lighthouse Point, is a social worker whose experience includes nine years as a military life consultant for the Department of Defense helping veterans and families at military bases here and abroad. "This is where my passion developed," she says. She understands veterans who return home and suffer posttraumatic stress. She has seen the dramatic change in family life when a veteran returns after a long deployment and his young children don't even know him. "We want to relieve the veteran's pain and suffering and help them integrate back into the community," she says. She's learned that effectively counseling such veterans requires trust and confidence. "If they don't trust you, they won't open up."

Eht-El Taylor of Hallandale Beach, a family health therapist and mental health counselor with a Ph.D., is the organization's secretary. Her experience includes 17 years of work with families that have experienced domestic violence. She, too, knows what a veteran can battle, and she tells of one who lost a foot in Iraq and now dreams about it every night and can't sleep. She just wants to help -- the families as well as the individual veteran.

The three founding members were motivated to help veterans because they realized that many aren't getting the help they need. News accounts cite long waiting lists and long delays for treatment by the Veterans Administration. The VA and Department of Defense report record high suicides among both veterans and active duty troops. To Bart Ostroff, this is an "unconscionable situation."

These conditions motivated Materazzi, Taylor and Ostroff to do something to help. So "Peace and Life for Veterans" was born and received its federal non-profit status in September 2014, making donations tax deductible.

The organization's most immediate goals are to help veterans and raise money to make that even more possible. The web site says it this way: "Our primary goal is to provide free treatment for any veteran and their family, which can only be made by private or corporate donations." In addition, the therapists have a long-range vision - to teach military culture and language to therapists who will treat veterans and create an educational peer support program run by veterans themselves. Although they were looking for office space in October, they invited any veteran to contact them. Ostroff says some professional therapists have already offered their services without charge. Officially, the organization will have a sliding fee schedule based on ability to pay, to donate what they can.

They invite veterans to call any one of them: Bart Ostroff at 954 255-5686, Linda Materazzi at 954 803-5867, or Eht-El Taylor at 305 331-6891.

The therapists know that returning veterans can suffer a range of harmful emotions - anger, frustration, hate, loneliness, and sometimes guilt or shame. There's one thing they want these veterans to know: they want to help.

Bill Johnson is a career reporter and former U.S. Senate aide.

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