Veterans support group first on tap for board of health

| 15 Feb 2012 | 11:33

    Waiting for council approval to move forward WEST MILFORD — Veterans in the township may soon have an active support group thanks to the efforts of the West Milford Board of Health, in particular its newest member, Doris Aaronson. Aaronson, who was appointed to the board earlier this month, told the council she had done some preliminary research and wants to form a veterans support group to help those returning from Iraq, Afghanistan as well as those who have already returned from any other conflict. “Veterans will be coming back with a variety of issues, like post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression,” said Aaronson. “Sharing their similar experiences can help. They get helpful ideas from each other.” Aaronson said her first thought was of returning vets from Iraq and Afghanistan, but she thinks the group would benefit more if it were open to all vets. Looking for help for returning vets A support group is not the only veterans service Aaronson is moving toward. She said she would like a mobile clinic to come upcounty to provide simple medical services to area vets, including blood pressure screenings. The county does provide an outreach clinic in Paterson through the Department of Military and Veterans' Affairs, Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Transportation can be arranged through the county's Para Transit Program. The nearest Veterans’ Administration (VA) hospital is in East Orange, a one and a half hour drive from many parts of West Milford. Many veterans from this area don’t make the trip down, or, when they do go, it’s an all-day process because of the wait time. It would be nice to have some services up in this area, Aaronson said. Help available for vets at Hillcrest West Milford resident Pat Loughman (pronounced Lock-man), a Vietnam veteran himself, has office hours at Hillcrest Community Center, on the first and third Mondays of each month, beginning this Monday. Loughman mans the Veterans' Service Office at the community center in room 17, advising fellow vets on a variety of issues, including medical and insurance issues. He said he strongly advises all veterans to register with the VA, even if they don’t need their services. Yet. “You don’t have to use it,” said Loughman. “But all veterans should register. That way, if you need something, you are registered in the system. It’s like getting the dentist before your tooth hurts.” Loughman also pointed out that the federal government allocates funding based on the numbers of people who need it. If the VA doesn’t have an accurate count of those who may need services, they won’t fund the agency appropriately. “This way, the government knows the potential,” he said. Loughman is a recognizable person in town. He was the commander of the West Milford Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) for a decade. Loughman's office hours at Hillcrest are 6 to 8 p.m. on the first and third Mondays each month, beginning this Monday, Feb. 6. He invites any veterans to stop by. There is no contact phone number yet. A board of health's purpose According to the township code, the board of health will advise the mayor and council concerning matters of public health and make recommendations relating to the operation and administration of the Department of Health. Aaronson said the township board of health has a dual purpose: to advise on health issues and environmental issues. In addition to the support group for veterans, Aaronson would like to implement an educational arm on environmental issues for the public. First up: phosphorus that makes its way to the lakes and streams. Aaronson said people don’t know they shouldn’t be using fertilizer with phosphorus. The phosphorus makes its way to the lake and encourages weed growth. Pretty much everyone knows that’s a crucial issue for Greenwood Lake. The newly minted board of health met for the first time on Tuesday and Aaronson said they were unanimously in favor of moving forward with the support group. The board, which has five members, reorganized on Tuesday. The members include township nurse, Bobbi Del Sol, Theres Mueller, Denise DePalma, Marilyn Lichtenberg and Aaronson. The board of health is an advisory board to the council. Aaronson reported to the council on Wednesday and got the go-ahead from them to move forward on gathering more information on the veterans' support group.