Veterans and military families often don’t have access to the mental health services they need. The opening of a new clinic in Lakewood last week aims to help fill that gap.

The Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Valley Cities in Lakewood celebrated its grand opening last Friday. The event featured several speakers including Washington First Lady Trudi Inslee, U.S. Rep. Denny Heck, state Sen. Steve O’Ban, Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier, and Scotty Smiley, a veteran and author.

Veteran and author Scott Smiley speaks at the opening of the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic in Lakewood.

Veteran and author Scott Smiley speaks at the opening of the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic in Lakewood. Photo by Steven Wyble.

The clinic is part of the Cohen Veterans Network, a nonprofit philanthropic organization and network of clinics that support post-9/11 veterans and military veterans with mental health services. Lakewood’s new clinic — the first of its kind in Washington — will serve veterans and their family members regardless of the veteran’s discharge status or their ability to pay.

Steven A. Cohen has always been a philanthropist, but it was his son, who served in the Marine Corps, who set his focus on veterans, said Anthony M. Hassan, CEO and president of the Cohen Veterans Network. At his son’s suggestion, Cohen hired a consulting firm and with their help, created the network that currently consists of 11 clinics, with two more opening later this year.

“We’re here to fill gaps, to provide care to family members that are sometimes forgotten about,” Hassan said. “We have a dearth of providers across the country,” he said, adding that many providers don’t accept coverage from the military healthcare system Tricare. “It limits the number of overall mental health providers that serve our military communities. So we see Cohen Veterans Network clinics as valuable resources that provide free or low-cost care.”

The goal is to have the least amount of restrictions possible, said Clinic Director Nichole Ayres. Veterans are eligible if they have one day of service, and military families are defined loosely, she said. “There’s not a lot of resources for veterans’ family members that may not be spouses or may not be children, but they may be important individuals for the veteran,” she said. “So the ability to serve those people is huge.”

Visit the clinic online to learn more.