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Professionals Help Veterans and Families with Post-Combat Reintegration

Professionals from throughout the country will gather on the University of Utah campus Wednesday to begin a three-day conference aimed at increasing familiarity with and improving care for military personnel, their families and their communities.

Sponsored by the University of Utah College of Social Work and the Utah Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, “Responding on the Home Front: The Impact of Military Engagement on Families and Communities” will run Wednesday, October 13 through Friday, October 15, 2010 at the University of Utah College of Social Work (395 South 1500 East, Salt Lake City). Onsite registration is available.

“As clinicians, we tend to focus only on what services are available to our returning veterans,” said Farriña Coulam, director of professional and community education at the College of Social Work and a member of the conference planning committee. “We often neglect to consider the impact of military deployment on other groups – service members’ children, for example. If those children are upset by the situation, they’re unlikely to seek help from the VA system. Rather, they may turn to a pediatrician, a school counselor, or even a teacher.” For this reason, said Coulam, it is important for professionals in a range of disciplines to be aware of the underlying issues that may lead to a child acting out.

The trauma or secondary trauma associated with military engagement may manifest itself in many ways. Compared to the general population, veterans are at a higher risk for psychological trauma, suicide, homicide, spousal abuse and military sexual trauma. Physical disabilities, brain injuries and “self-medicating” substance abuse may also lead to disrupted family relationships. “Once you realize the type of affect war can have on one person, you get a much better sense of how that experience might impact a family and an entire community,” said Coulam.

According to conference organizers, the need for this broader understanding is great. This conference – only the second if its kind in the country – will help health and mental health professionals, law enforcement officers, educators and clergy develop an understanding of this complex issue.

“Attendees will learn about military culture and hear about deployment experiences,” said Maria Fruin, program manager for Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom Veterans at the George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center and another member of the planning committee. “‘Responding on the Home Front’ will enhance their understanding of what our veterans and service members have been through and the sacrifice that the entire family makes when a loved one is deployed. Such training will help providers address post deployment re-adjustment issues, as well as provide them with referral resources when additional evaluation or treatment is indicated.”

Additional information about “Responding on the Home Front” is available on the conference website at A complete PDF copy of the final conference program (including times and sessions) is available to the media at

Available for Media Interviews:

– Emily Bleyl, executive director, National Association of Social Workers, Utah Chapter, (801) 583-8855,

– Jill Atwood, veteran and public affairs representative, VA Medical Center, (801) 584-1252,

– Brandon Johnson, veteran and conference participant, (801) 471-4585,

– Del Bircher, administrator of State Domestic Violence Program, Utah Division of Child and Family Services, (801) 538-3993,

– Maria Fruin, program manager for OEF/OIF veterans, VA Medical Center, (801) 582-1565 x 5246,