UWM and VA address needs of LGBT+ veterans at June 16 summit

The Holistic Care of LGBTQ+ Veterans is the focus of the fifth annual Milwaukee VA Mental Health Summit, hosted by the Milwaukee VA Medical Center and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Friday, June 16, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event will be held in the UWM Student Union, 2200 E. Kenwood Blvd.

Veterans of the U.S. military, their friends and family, community supporters and medical- and mental-health care providers are invited to attend the free, daylong event. The Holistic Care of LGBTQ+ Veterans will feature a diverse array of workshops, breakout sessions, expert panelists and practitioners with experience serving the needs of this important but sometimes overlooked veteran community.

“From lingering, negative effects of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ to the medical needs of our trans veterans, there are many factors that can complicate healing and recovery for veterans who identify on the LGBTQ+ spectrum,” said Jayne Holland, director of the Military and Veterans Resource Center at UWM. “This conference will bring a variety of support resources for them under one roof. There’s also the healing benefit of welcoming people just to talk, to brainstorm and to know that they’re not alone.”

Christine Black

Added Dr. Michael McBride, a staff psychiatrist at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center: “This year’s focus on mental health services for LGBT+ veterans acknowledges that, for decades, many of these veterans didn’t feel welcome or understood. There is a diverse care network out there for them, and the summit program will reflect this. Traditional VA care, suicide prevention, family care services, addiction treatment and alternative therapies like yoga and outdoor recreation are just a few of the topics we’ll address.”

The event’s keynote speaker will be Christine Black, director of Military & Veteran Services at Marywood University in Pennsylvania. Black was deployed three times as a member of the U.S. Army, and she will speak on her experiences at the summit.

“We are thrilled to see the VA recognize, appreciate and affirm LGBTQ+ communities,” said Jen Murray, director of the UWM LGBT Resource Center. “Our center is proud to collaborate with our campus and community partners to support the veterans who have served us.”

VA staff will offer presentations on healthcare eligibility, mental health access, benefits and related topics. Arts-based therapies and presentations include a performance by the Feast of Crispian theater troupe, therapeutic storytelling and an art show. Breakout sessions focus on LGBTQ+ language and terminology, coming out, locating or starting LGBTQ+ support groups for veterans, mindfulness and meditation and more.

Attendees are strongly encouraged to RSVP and to request accommodations online.

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