DOWNTOWN — A Los Angeles-based nonprofit veterans group on Monday kicked off an effort to identify and treat combat veterans at local community colleges who are suffering from untreated post traumatic stress disorder.

U.S. VETS, which is dedicated to providing housing and services to homeless and at-risk veterans, said nearly 20 percent of all veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD, but only 40 percent seek treatment.

The condition can be a precursor to a host of problems, including depression, anxiety, isolation, anger management, substance abuse and homelessness, said Stephen Peck, the president and chief executive of the Los Angeles-based group.

“Our goal is to get them early before the trouble begins,” Peck said.

“No one has ever done anything like this before.”

There are more than 2,000 veterans staying in 11 U.S.VETS sites across the country. The organization provides housing and a wide array of coordinated programs to support the efforts of veterans working to reintegrate into the civilian community, Peck said.

The new PTSD outreach program, which will be staffed and further developed in the coming weeks, is funded by grants by the Weingart and UniHealth Foundations, Peck said.

The program will initially be run out of the U.S.VETS site in Long Beach and concentrate on outreach to veterans attending community colleges, including Long Beach City College, Santa Monica College and Los Angeles Community College, he said.

Peck, a Marine who was in combat in Vietnam, said the program could easily be expanded if it proves successful.

news@smdp.com

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