SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – A U.S. veteran killed three staff members at a veterans’ facility in Napa County, raising the question: are veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder getting the help they need when they come home?
The triple homicide happened in Yountville in Napa County on Friday. But on Monday, 100 miles away on the other side of the San Francisco Bay Area, a group session was held for veterans with PTSD in San Jose.
Counselors at the veterans housing facility in San Jose gave extra attention to veteran’s feelings and their fears because the Yountville shootings happened in a very similar setting.
“Our first priority is to make sure that you’re okay,” a counselor asked a room full of veterans. “How many of you were affected this weekend?”
CONTINUING COVERAGE: Yountville Veterans Home Shooting
“Did anybody get triggered just by watching it and just by the fear that was going on?” a counselor asked the veterans in San Jose.
One veteran answered: “Yes. I fell into another depression. It triggered me going back 40 years and I have been crying since that time.”
We sat down with U.S. veteran Thomas MacGowan, a Vietnam vet with PTSD, who agreed to talk about his feelings.
“I was scared that it was going to happen here,” MacGowan said. “I felt safe in a sense, but my immediate reaction was: do I want to run or do I want to stay and fight? How’s everybody else doing around here?”
He says just talking about it made him feel better.
“Is there enough help? Yes, I believe that there is enough help,” said Irvin Goodwin, a former homeless veteran who’s been helping fellow veterans get off the streets for 20 years.
Goodwin is founder and CEO of the Homeless Veterans Emergency Housing Facility and says there is a bigger problem. He says that many vets resist being helped and go undiagnosed and untreated even though the help is there.
Goodwin said, “I think a lot of veterans really don’t know they have PTSD. They think, ‘Oh man, I’ve got this drug addiction, I’ve got this alcohol addiction. I want to go to a cheaper program for drug and alcohol.’ But what about the post-traumatic stress disorder?”
Goodwin’s facility has been open for five years and while there have been conflicts, there have been no major incidents. Still, there are major security changes coming.
Until now, the facility has relied on locked gates and security cameras, but Goodwin says after the Yountville incident he needs to consider armed guards.
“I couldn’t even be able to sleep at night if I knew that, after what happened up in Yountville, and I dragged my feet and something happened here. This is my watch. I’m responsible for everybody, every veteran that lives here,” Goodwin said.
He says the guards will be hired within the next 90 days.