Veteran donates land for mental health and addiction treatment center honoring deceased partner.
Marty Weber, a veteran, is donating 36 acres adjacent to New Jersey’s Pinelands National Reserve to be used as a rehabilitation center and retreat for mental illness and addiction. The camp will be constructed to assist military veterans with challenges that many continue to face in post-war life and will be dedicated to long-time partner and fellow veteran Jeff Poissant who passed away from cancer. It will be named Jeff’s Camp.
Weber turned down a $3 million dollar offer for the property. Instead, working with two homeless outreach programs, Just Believe and New Life Addiction Services, Jeff’s Camp will feature an 8,000-square-foot space on the nearly 40 acres that includes a thrift store and a sober living home that will offer treatment and rehabilitation services. In a ceremony held at the end of May, Weber signed a letter of intent to deed over the land in front of a group of onlookers that included New Jersey Congressman Andy Kim. Weber once ran against Kim as a candidate for the State’s 3rd district.
“While (New Life) is working with them on the medical side, we can work on the rehabilitative and vocation side, getting them back into society, touching people, getting back into that public eye, and getting people what they need. That’s what the store is going to do,” Just Believe director Paul Hulse explained.
“If ever there was an issue that tries to unite our country it would be about supporting our veterans,” Kim added. “So, this is something where it should be all hands on deck. It should be a no-brainer to everybody.”
The gesture is an especially welcomed one because it comes at a time shortly after New Jersey began to face at least 28 tort claims in connection with its Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities in Paramus and Menlo Park alleging “grossly negligent and incompetent” management during the pandemic. This means the state could be facing $140 million in claims over COVID-19 outbreaks. In general, VA clinics have gotten a bad rap with patients passing away due to issues with understaffing and negligence. Any additional acres to establish help for underserved population is very much needed.
There is an increased need nationwide to assist veterans with posttraumatic stress from combat trauma that may have been amplified by the coronavirus pandemic. Trauma causes an intense physical and emotional stress reaction exceeding an individual’s ability to cope and challenge their reality, causing a perceived loss of control. Veterans commonly experience posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following their service, which reduces their ability to cope with subsequent stressors and can lead to substance abuse.
Roberto Cruz knows this all too well. A veteran who served in Iraq, quarantining alone caused him to ruminate on the past and he was “flooded with memories” as well as guilt over how he’d treated his loved ones due to PTSD. Luckily, things have begun to open up a bit, but if the world goes back into shutdown mode, Cruz is likely to shut down again himself.
“It was worse than getting physically injured in the war,” Cruz said. “That month and a half, mentally, it put me to really dark places.”
It’s very likely that everyone has experienced some degree of trauma within this past year due to COVID-19, and veterans are among one of the more vulnerable populations. The first step in helping those that have turned to addiction to cope is effective treatment. Weber’s donation will offer more space for healing.