Opinion: Veterans Day is Every Day in District 5 – We’re Here to Help

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By Katrina Foley, Orange County Supervisor

Supporting the 105,000 veterans here in Orange County remains a top priority for my office.

When I joined the board in 2021, I committed to go above and beyond to ensure veterans receive the treatment they deserve. I formed a Veterans Advisory Team to target gaps in services and priorities. We prioritize addressing long-standing veterans issues like suicide prevention, mental health services, housing, food insecurity, job placement, and supporting veteran-owned businesses.

I remain committed to supporting mental health and suicide prevention support services for our veterans. Nearly half of Post-9-11 veterans found readjusting to civilian life difficult compared to only 21% of pre-9-11 veterans. According to Brown University, a staggering 30,177 Post-9-11 veterans committed suicide in the 20 years between September 11, 2001 and June of 2021. In addition, 70% of Pre-9-11 veterans said they were proud of their service while only 58% of Post-9-11 veterans report feeling that same pride. To that end, I secured $4 million in funding for a veterans peer-to-peer suicide prevention program to ensure veterans knew they were never alone.

Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley (center in red) stands with Laguna Beach council members and local veterans during the annual Veterans Day celebration at Heisler Park on Nov. 11. Photo courtesy of Katrina Foley

As County Supervisor, I’ve spearheaded efforts for:

-$200,000 in funding to improve ADA access at American Legion locations in D5,

-$50,000 in food assistance to OC veterans service organizations,

-$20,000 to fund veterans arts and story sharing programs,

-$10,500 for scholarships for students from veteran families, and

-Funding for access to arts and equine therapy programs to improve mental health for veterans and their spouses.

And of course, we need a proper resting place for veterans. I’ve voted for $20 million in funding and advocated for the veterans cemetery at Gypsum Canyon.

In addition, our point-in-time count reveals that 280 veterans still live unhoused in Orange County, with 21 identified living in District 5. To address this, we plan to build 55 PSH units for veterans in District 5. Our goal is to reach net zero veteran homelessness.

Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley (center) stands with Orange County veterans during the third annual Veterans of the Year Awards ceremony in Dana Point. Photo courtesy of Katrina Foley

To support veteran employment, I hosted a career fair this month in Laguna Hills with a special one-hour opening just for veterans. If you missed it, our Laguna Niguel County One-Stop staff are ready to provide unemployment services, career planning, job coaching and placement, employer assistance with hiring, training, and compliance, and more. Our workforce development team and our veterans services office will help your company with funding veteran employee training. Learn more: https://workforce.ocgov.com/oc-workforce-development-board/job-seeker-services/veterans-assistance-programs.

This month, we also recognized outstanding veterans who contribute to our community at my third annual Veterans of the Year Awards ceremony in Dana Point. The Fifth District is home to many outstanding veterans who served our nation and now continue to serve our county through music, education, public safety and more. I’m honored to recognize this year’s honorees who go above and beyond to support our veteran community.

– Aliso Viejo – Tony Faulkner

– Costa Mesa – Greg Elliott

– Dana Point – Patricia “Patti” Holliday

– Irvine – Dr. Dani Molina

– Laguna Beach – Arnie Silverman

– Laguna Niguel – Ernesto Medrano

– Newport Beach – Nick Saifan, Jr.

– San Clemente – Nelson Coburn

– San Juan Capistrano – Mayor Howard Hart

I look forward to continuing partnerships with the veteran community to help connect veterans with employers, support veteran businesses, and ensure the 21 veterans sleeping on the streets of the Fifth District find housing and receive the full benefits and care they earned by serving our country and protecting our freedoms.

If you, or any veterans you know, seek assistance navigating county services and resources, please contact my office at (714) 834-3550 or at [email protected].

It’s Veterans Day every day in Orange County.

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