Veterans and their families can receive assistance through Polk County Veteran Services, the national Veterans Crisis Line and the Polk County nonprofit equine therapy program Guiding Reins.
POLK COUNTY VETERAN SERVICES
Polk County Veteran Services offers free counseling and assistance to local veterans and their dependents of their rights and entitlements under various laws and can assist with obtaining government benefits.
Trained and certified by the North Carolina Department of Military & Veterans Affairs, Polk County Veteran Services Officer Gina Cashion assists veterans and their families in a variety of ways, including with the preparation of claims, the obtaining of supporting documents and affidavits and the forwarding of paperwork to appropriate government entities.
Veteran Services Officer Gina Cashion is available by phone at (828) 894-0003 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Due to COVID-19, the Polk County Veteran Services office is currently closed to the public.
VETERANS CRISIS LINE
Veterans in a crisis can call or chat online with caring, qualified responders — many of whom are veterans themselves — through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Crisis Line.
This free support is confidential and available every day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Veterans Crisis Line serves all veterans, all service members, members of the National Guard and Reserve and family members and friends.
To connect with a responder with the Veterans Crisis Line:
- Call (800) 273-8255 and press 1,
- Chat online through https://www.veteranscrisisline.net or
- Text 838255.
- Support for the deaf and hard of hearing is available by dialing (800) 799-4889.
Another resource in Polk County is Guiding Reins, a nonprofit, equine-assisted therapy program dedicated to improving the quality of life for veterans as well as military personnel, first responders and their families who are affected by mental, physical and emotional trauma and challenges.
Free to participants through support from grants and donations, Guiding Reins in Tryon helps veterans and others dealing with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, addiction, prior abuse and other mental and physical health issues.
Guiding Reins offers both ground and mounted therapy in individual and group sessions up to three participants at a time as well as group events throughout the year with certified instructors leading the sessions.
The program involves 16 weeks of weekly visits by the participants with observations and evaluations conducted by mental health therapists. The farm-based location of the Guiding Reins program provides a safe and private environment with kind and gentle horses, some of whom themselves have been rescued.
The success of equine-assisted therapies and riding programs has been proven time and again, not only with physical challenges but also to enhance emotional connections and relieve mental stress among veterans, Guiding Reins President and Founder Diane C. Prewitt said.
According to Prewitt, most programs in the area offer services to a wide array of individuals but do not specifically address trauma-induced illnesses among veteran populations.
“Guiding Reins aims to fill that void and offer equine-assisted therapy services at no cost to this population through grants, fundraising and private donations,” she said.
For more information about Guiding Reins, visit www.guidingreins.org or call (864) 457-3575.