TRENTON, N.J. – The Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs committee on Thursday advanced a resolution urging the federal Department of Veterans Affairs to establish a vet center in northwestern New Jersey. Forty thousand veterans in Morris, Sussex, Warren, and Hunterdon counties must travel 50 miles or more in state for mental health services at vet centers.
Assemblymen Hal Wirths and Erik Peterson sponsored the resolution (ACR22). It is co-sponsored by fellow Assembly Republicans Parker Space, Aura Dunn and U.S. Army veteran Brian Bergen.
“These centers are a lifeline to our military members and their families in times of need,” Wirths (R-Sussex) said. “These services should be easily accessible in New Jersey. They shouldn’t have to travel an hour or longer in-state to get the help they need.”
Vet centers were first started in 1979 to treat the mental health crises of Vietnam veterans. Today, the centers offer mental health and readjustment services to veterans, service members and their families in non-medical settings. The centers are separate from VA hospitals to ensure confidentiality.
New Jersey is home to five centers in Bloomfield, Secaucus, Ewing, Lakewood, and Egg Harbor Township.
“It’s a burden that quite frankly shouldn’t be there. We’re forcing these people to travel ridiculous distances, sometimes into Pennsylvania or even New York State,” Peterson (R-Hunterdon) said. “I’d like to see the situation rectified by setting up a vet center that’s convenient for our 40,000 veterans in our neglected corner of the state.”