State Rep. James Arciero wants veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder to receive the help they need to succeed at our public colleges
The Westford Democrat has authored a bill that would train counselors in all 29 Massachusetts state colleges and universities on how to deal with military PTSD.
Arciero’s legislation, House Bill 3897, has been assigned to the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs; it will have a public hearing to receive testimony, according to a press release issued by Arciero’s office.
“Veterans and former service members are going to be a major part of the future workforce,” Arciero told the newspaper. “Some college campuses do better than others, but that uniformity for all state and community colleges to give veterans more resources is imperative.”
The bill, which Arciero’s office said was filed in collaboration with the University of Massachusetts Medical School, will help hire and train clinical and non-clinical counselors to help veterans and military personnel deal with PTSD and acclimate into civilian and academic life.
This isn’t the first time Arciero has tried to assist transitioning veterans.
It’s not difficult to understand his motivation. Arciero comes from a military family: His father served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam, and his brother was an Army physician.
In 2015, Arciero filed a bill that would have allowed veterans to attend state colleges for free. And although it received initial support from 59 of his House and Senate colleagues, it nevertheless failed to gain sufficient traction through the legislative process.
Cost was undoubtedly a factor in that previous legislation, and we suspect it will likely be the determining factor again.
Arciero’s press release made no mention of the potential price tag for the required training of these counselors.
The Legislature and the higher education establishment haven’t agreed on what constitutes the right amount of funding to run the state’s universities and colleges.
UMass recently announced a 2.5 percent in-state tuition increase for the next academic year due to receiving about $10 million less than it asked for in the fiscal 2020 budget.
The bill can count on the support of UMass university system President Marty Meehan. “Through this legislation, UMass can expand that support to student veterans throughout public higher education in Massachusetts by providing specialized training in PTSD for counselors,” Meehan stated.
Instead of treating Arciero’s legislation as strictly an education bill, lawmakers should view it through the lens of the state’s high tech, life sciences and manufacturing industries, which all have experienced difficulties in finding highly skilled employees.
According to the United State Department of Veteran Affairs, there were 323,253 Massachusetts veterans as of September of 2017. Of that number, we’re certain there are thousands who could benefit from the type of assistance envisioned in this bill.
Individuals already ingrained with the discipline and maturity gained from their military experience – with the proper education – would certainly be welcomed by the state’s booming economy.
This unquestionably worthwhile bill will nonetheless be a tough sell on Beacon Hill. Perhaps amending it by introducing pilot programs at a few state colleges, universities and community colleges – to gauge its effectiveness while limiting expenditures – might increase its odds of passage.