ATC Preparing to Meet Specialized Needs of Veterans
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However, as part of its Harvest2025 vision — a series of new ATC initiatives designed to increase outreach, expand infrastructure, and improve effectiveness — ATC is creating a new program specifically to meet the needs of veterans and active-duty personnel.
“We want to make an impact on the veteran and active-duty personnel who are struggling with life-controlling issues,” says Gary Blackard, ATC president and CEO. “Currently 11% to 13% of the veteran population struggle with addiction, which we want to address, as well as offer active-duty personnel short-term programs.”
Blackard explains that men and women who are active duty typically aren’t permitted more than 30 days by the military to find a solution to their life-controlling issue, which, Blackard says, is typically alcohol.
“Thirty days is not a lot of time,” he says, “but we believe our program will offer military personnel struggling with addiction the best opportunity to overcome life-controlling issues.”
One ATC center in North Carolina is already working on transforming its facilities to begin the initial venture into helping veterans and active-duty personnel.
Russ Cambria, executive director and CEO of Sandhills ATC in North Carolina, explains that the Sandhills ATC is ideal for this type of new ministry as their centers are located within short distances of the Ft. Bragg and Camp Lejeune military bases.
Although to some it may seem the new ministry focus is little more than a program name change, Cambria shares the veterans and active-duty personnel are unique in their needs. Many former and current military who need help with life-controlling issues are also dealing with PTSD in varying levels.
“You speak to and offer assistance to them differently than non-military students,” Cambria explains. “We have former military here in leadership positions — people who understand and can relate to these students — who also have instant credibility with them due to their service.”
The military programs also require specialized programming and staff qualifications in addition to a broader curriculum.
“The center is going to require additional professional staff members in order to provide clinical counseling,” Cambria says. “Clinical counseling will help address such things as mental health, PTSD, grief counseling due to the losses frequently experienced in the military (such as death of a unit member, relationships, or a loss-of-function injury),” Cambria says. “We’ll be tackling some tough issues.”
Blackard notes another significant difference for the active-duty centers compared to regular ATC centers will be the level of physical activity.
“In addition to a greatly compacted 30-day time frame for helping active-duty personnel overcome their life-controlling issue, we also have to set aside time to keep them physically fit through daily workouts,” Blackard says. “When they return to the military, it’s vital they return to their station in good physical condition.”
Sandhills ATC has three locations: Southern Pines, Greater Charlotte (Kannapolis), and Elizabethtown. The Elizabethtown facility, also known as Sandhills ATC of the Coastal Plains, will be transitioned into the veterans facility and directed by Jeff Gautier, a veteran and ATC graduate.
“The Coastal Plains facility currently is a large home that can serve 10 students, but it sits on 28 acres of land and is ideal for expansion,” Cambria says. “We’re currently fundraising to build a multipurpose center that will house our chapel as well as be the location for classrooms, offices, and counseling. We want the home to be a place where students can go to at the end of the day and enjoy a more relaxed and natural atmosphere.”
Programs for veterans and active-duty personnel will rely heavily on the ATC USA new curriculum recently released, including Breaking Free, Intimacy with a Purpose, and Preparing for Success. However, they will also be using curriculum that has been developed by Warrior’s Journey that is more clinical in nature and extremely relevant for former and current military.
“It is our goal to have a military specialization center on the East Coast, West Coast, and Midwest,” Blackard says. “And I think churches recognize the value the military brings and how it’s time for us to really give back and do what we can to help those individuals who are hurting, who need Jesus and the healing power of the Holy Spirit in their lives — cause that’s where change happens.”