Doug Ernst

Napa Valley Register columnist Doug Ernst.

For post-9/11 veterans who need help adjusting to civilian life, acquiring a place to live, getting professional counseling and going to college for job training, there is no better $700-a-month deal in the Napa Valley than the Pathway Home in Yountville.

The self-supporting non-profit, which is financed by private donations, foundation grants and corporate giving, is located on the grounds of the California Veterans Home of Yountville and staffed by counselors from the Veterans Administration’s San Francisco Health Care System.

Counselors provide a therapeutic residential environment to help veterans connect to Napa Valley College for educational needs and job training, and to the Workforce Investment Board, as well as local businesses and community members.

At NVC, veterans are linked to the Pathway Home by Veterans Services Specialist Lynette Cortes, who answers questions and provides financial help for students seeking certificates, degrees and a new career path.

“Veterans returning from deployment who are looking to get their lives back on track, can use education and job training to reduce stress and re-integrate into society,” said Xavier Bianchi, NVC’s new president of the Student Veterans Organization.

Bianchi, who served three tours in Afghanistan, said he advises NVC veterans to check out the Pathway Home, where he is planning to volunteer his time.

“When student veterans join our residential program, we provide them with wrap-around mental health services, coping skills, group support, a sense of community, educational and professional support, life skills development and connections with VA resources,” said Liz Russell, manager of Administration and Development for the Pathway Home.

As clients of a transitional residential treatment program, Pathway Home residents are required to pay $700 per month for basic services, she explained.

She said many of the 6,000 post-9/11 veterans in Napa, Sonoma, Solano and Lake counties between the ages of 18 and 34 are heading to community colleges and trade programs, hoping to use their military skills in a very complex and global job market.

“Investing in veterans early on and supporting them while they work toward completing their education or vocational training makes sense,” Russell added.

“The whole community benefits when a veteran integrates well and becomes a healthy, employed, contributing, tax-paying member of society.”

Over time, she said, the Pathway Home program goal is to replicate and share the model throughout California and across the nation.

In the meantime, she said, the Pathway Home in Yountville will follow its mission: “To provide educational, professional and clinical support in a residential setting to post 9/11 veterans pursuing academic or vocational endeavors who are transitioning back into the civilian world after military deployment.”

That’s good news for veterans throughout the state and nation, who could take advantage of one of the best deals ever offered in the Napa Valley.

All they have to do is call the Pathway Home at 948-3031 or Lynette Cortes at Napa Valley College at 256-7322.

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Doug Ernst is the Napa Valley College public information officer. Reach him at DErnst@napavalley.edu or (707) 256-7112.