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Pine Island Cares offers health advice for vets

April 19, 2017
By ED FRANKS ( , Pine Island Eagle

The Beacon of HOPE's "Pine Island Cares" meeting included two speakers: Dr. Susan Hook, executive director of Samaritan Health and Wellness Center, and Jeremy Gentile, program manager at Mission United.

Samaritan Health and Wellness Center Inc. is an integrated primary care behavioral health clinic with pastoral care and counseling on site. It is located at 643 Cape Coral Parkway, Cape Coral.

"Samaritan is an integrated primary care behavioral health clinic for the working underinsured and uninsured," Hook said. "We started in November 2014 with 20 patients our first week and today we're up to almost 3,700. We see between 300 and 350 patients per month."

Samaritan offers health care and counseling services to adults and children who would otherwise not be able to afford primary health care.

"We have on staff two nurse practitioners, a full-time licensed mental health counselor, a full-time certified addiction professional, a prevention education specialist and two medical assistants," Hook said. "Our newest addition are our addiction services. Florida is 49th in the nation for mental health care."

The primary focus at Samaritan is promotion of holistic wellness and disease prevention through education. Patients accessing care have a medical home where they receive care of body, mind, and spirit. Samaritan also offers annual physicals, gynecology exams, well child exams, acute Illness care, chronic illness management, wellness and prevention health care, mental health counseling, health education sessions, spiritual care and counseling, referrals to specialists, low cost lab/X-ray services, smoking cessation, and minor office surgeries and procedures.

"We offer all of these services at an affordable, efficient, and professional setting," Dr. Hook said. "There are small charges for office visits which help with some of the costs the rest is made up with donations."

For more about Samaritan Health and Wellness Center Inc., call 239-257-3094.

Gentile served in the U.S. Marine Corps with tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mission United is a United Way program that connects veterans with critical help.

American Legion Commander Tom Lewis and VFW Commander Austin White were present at the meeting.

"Mission United was started last May and we had an official startup in November," Gentile said. "The backbone of Mission United is United Way 2-1-1, our resource and information line. We're helping veterans navigate the system."

The top 10 needs of veterans are: electric assistance, rent assistance, veterans benefits, food pantry locations, tax preparation, housing, employment, senior services, water and medical.

"Fifty percent of the calls we receive are from Vietnam veterans and recently we've seen an increase in calls from Iraq and Afghanistan veterans," Gentile said. "We perform a thorough screening to learn about the caller. Our primary areas of concentration are employment and mental health."

According to the Mission United website, "The unemployment rate among post 9/11 veterans age 18-24 is double the national average."

"Goodwill JobLinks has been a great help because they have a veterans specific program where they can help a homeless veteran that hasn't worked in years and they'll let them work at Goodwill for 8 weeks giving them an employment history that helps them find employment," Gentile said.

Mental health is an important issue that needs attention. United Mission has developed a partnership with the Veterans Center in Fort Myers which provides Combat Readjustment Counseling for combat veterans and veterans that have suffered sexual trauma.

"The Vet Center will see any veteran and veteran's family," Gentile said. "We've had great success with the Vet Center. Just last month I referred 15 combat veterans to the Vet Center and every single one of them is attending their sessions.

"Mission United at the grassroots is an information referral service utilizing 2-11," Gentile said. If you know a veteran, meet a veteran with needs have them call us and we will do our best to get that veteran where he or she needs to go. Mission United has helped veterans with employment readiness, education, health, legal assistance, emergency financial aid, and housing."

Mission United is at 7273 Concourse Drive, Fort Myers, FL 33908. Contact Gentile at



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