The Pathway Home, the Napa Valley residential therapy program for trauma-scarred combat veterans, is shutting down its Yountville center 4 1/2 months after a deadly shooting.
Pathway spokesman Larry Kamer announced the permanent closure of the facility in a news release Sunday afternoon. The home, which had opened in 2008 to specialize in the care of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, has been closed since March 9 when a former client shot and killed its director and two employees.
Pathway will terminate its lease at the Veterans Home of California in Yountville as of Aug. 31, according to John Dunbar, the Yountville mayor who serves as a board member for the treatment facility.
The decision followed a series of board meetings and conference calls after the killings, said Dunbar, who pointed to both emotional and logistical reasons to wind down the Pathway program.
“As we continued to evaluate our short-term and long-term future, it just became more and more clear that would not go back into our facility at the Veterans Home,” he said Sunday. “That also would have an impact on our certification as a nonprofit, because the the facility has to have specific criteria to hold this treatment facility. (Furthermore), people can imagine the emotional and psychological impacts of losing our three friends and colleagues; to this day it weighs heavy on us as a board and as a staff.
“We feel the best way we can move forward now is to support other nonprofits, either private nonprofits or federal and state VA organizations, who are providing similar services. We can shift our focus to supporting those efforts and advocating for veterans in other communities.”
Veterans who were in Pathway’s care at the time of the March attack are continuing to receive treatment through Mentis, the Napa-based center for mental health services. Mentis has hired a former Pathway clinician to smooth the transition, Kamer said in the statement.
At the time of the shootings, six men were clients of Pathway’s inpatient program, and all were transferred into short-term care overseen by Mentis, according to Dunbar.
Pathway directors announced they are creating a handoff to another program run by the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Northern California Health Care System. Known as the Post-Deployment Assessment Treatment Program, it offers a residential setting similar to what Pathway offered.
Two former Pathway residents are being served by the VA-sponsored program, and Pathway’s 10-passenger van also has been transferred to that program, according to Kamer.
Pathway staff will partner with Suzanne Gordon, a journalist and an expert on veterans’ health care, to create a downloadable guide for local service organizations interested in creating Pathway-inspired therapy programs elsewhere in the U.S., Kamer said.
“Our focus now is to continue honoring the memory of our fallen colleagues by helping to support other Pathway Home-like facilities, working to support similar VA programs, and partnering with local Rotary Clubs and veterans’ facilities to bring our model of reintegration to communities across the country,” board member Dorothy Salmon said in the Sunday statement. “Wherever we can help with developing local networking and fundraising models, we will be there.”
Pathway reported that more than $100,000 of donations raised through the 3BraveWomen fund has been distributed among the families of the three women who were killed in March – executive director Christine Loeber, 48, clinical director Jennifer Gray Golick, 42, and psychologist Jennifer Gonzales Shushereba, 32, who was 26 weeks pregnant with her daughter.
The gunman, Albert Wong, a 36-year-old Army veteran who reportedly had been ordered to leave the Pathway program, killed himself after shooting the victims, according to authorities. The bodies were discovered after an hours-long standoff with law enforcement officers outside the Pathway building, where Wong had taken the victims hostage during an employee going-away party.
Pathway opened in 2008 under the direction of Fred Gusman, a former VA social worker who promoted the program as a more intensive form of inpatient therapy – with veterans on the staff – for those struggling with traumas related to their battlefield experiences. The center treated some 450 people in its first seven years and became known to a wider audience through the Laurent Bécue-Renard documentary “ Of Men and War” and the book and movie “Thank You for Your Service.”
After suspending operations in September 2015 due to funding problems, Pathway directors announced its relaunch in 2017, with a new focus on supporting veterans enrolling at Napa Valley College to prepare for civilian life.