CAROLINE COUNTY, Va. — The Commonwealth of Virginia is home to more than 780,000 veterans, according to the Virginia Department of Veteran Services.
Veteran Michael O'Dell says help that is within reach could be the difference between life and death. It was for him, after serving in the Marines.
"I had two legitimate suicide attempts," O'Dells said. "I was done living and I have people to live for but that wasn't enough."
Angel Lugo, who is also a veteran, served for many years in the United States Army, working in a medical treatment facility. He said there are many veterans, like O'Dell, who don't know—or didn't know—where to turn for treatment.
"Twenty-two veterans commit suicide every day in the United States of America," said Lugo.
O'Dell and Lugo said a lack of nearby resources is to blame for the loss of life across the country. It's why a veteran-owned rehab center known as Warriors Heart is on a mission to change that statistic.
Lugo said the center helps veterans, active duty military and first responders who are struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, PTSD or trauma.
Through this 42-day residential program, Warrior's Heart provides counseling and treatment, and it has a robust discharge program that helps people stay on track and return to their communities.
"We help them whether it's schools or working and we can work with other referral resources to help them achieve either those education and work goals they have," said Lugo.
The original center that currently operates in Texas has helped more than 2,000 people, and it recently got the invitation to expand to Hampton Roads.
"Virginia asked us to come here," Lugo said. "Their military liaison to the governor's office and the Hampton Roads Chamber welcomed us because of the population that's here."
Staff with Warriors Heart said the program aligns with Governor Glenn Youngkin's "Right help, right now" initiative. It aims to increase access to mental health services and addiction treatment in Virginia.
While the center has already gone through a technical review, Lugo said they're now waiting on the Caroline County Board of Supervisors to vote to grant the permit.
While Caroline County is about two hours from Norfolk, Lugo said Warriors Heart offers transportation services to help those in Hampton Roads.
Both Lugo and O'Dell believe there is no greater salute to a veteran or first responder than to make mental health care more accessible.