Mental health support for veterans is a top priority for Butler County organization

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

With more than 19,000 veterans spread across Butler County, the Butler County Veterans Service Commission, an organization that helps veterans receive benefits, is actively reaching out to the community to pull veterans together.

From mental health awareness events to free hot meals, Mike Farmer, executive director of the Veterans Commission, said the staff tries to reach out to every corner of the veteran population.

“The number one goal of our outreach is to connect with the community and let them know that we’re here,” Farmer said.

The commission does this by conducting events with different purposes including a veterans day at the Butler County Fair and a Silent Watch. For veterans day at the fair, veterans get free admission withtheir Butler County veterans ID card.

The Silent Watch has volunteers who do 20-minute watches over a flag-draped casket outside the Veterans Commission’s office on 315 High St. This is one of multiple events that focuses on mental health, created to “remember those who we’ve lost and encourage others struggling to reach out” and had more than 250 people volunteer last year according to Farmer.

Following the Veterans Commission’s entry into the Butler County Suicide Prevent Coalition three years ago, multiple events have focused on veteran suicide awareness and prevention. In the last year alone, veteran suicides accounted for one out of every six suicides in the county.

“We’ve really been focusing on the mental health piece because that number of nine veterans died by suicide last year, it’s a pretty staggering statistic,” Farmer said.

Along with raising awareness for veteran suicide, Farmer said the Veteran Commission is trying to help unhoused veterans more than it has in the past year. In January, Mission BBQ, a national restaurant chain with locations in Dayton and Mason, reached out to the Veterans Commission to give a meal to local veterans. The two came together to provide a hot meal for veterans at American Legion Post 138 in Hamilton.

Farmer said these events are hard to plan because the Veterans Commission doesn’t have a kitchen, but wants to give back to what he said is be between 40 and 75 unhoused veterans. Farmer said he is actively working with the Cincinnati and Dayton Department of Veterans Affairs to find a way to help more regularly.

“We don’t always plan [outreach to unhoused veterans] because we don’t have a way to prepare it or serve it,” Farmer said. “What we can do is work with the community and then deliver [food].”

Veteran Appreciation Day, a new event this year, will continue this work by offering a $20 food voucher for veterans who show proof of their Butler County veterans ID card. The event will take place at 5 p.m. on Aug. 24 at Marcum Park. The event will coincide with Hamilpooloza and include live music, a car show, face painting, military equipment and helicopters.

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