Center seeks to increase counseling for Okaloosa war veterans

Published: Thursday, September 5, 2013 at 02:03 PM.

SHALIMAR — The Okaloosa County Vet Center opened in June 2011 to provide free counseling for veterans who served in war zones and their families. It now has a caseload of about 250 people, but in such a veteran-rich area as Northwest Florida, Cliff Harris, the center’s director, suspects it could reach more.

The center provides counseling for individuals, couples, families, those who have lost a loved one, and people who have experienced military sexual trauma. It also holds group sessions, including a women’s group for spouses. All services are free.

More than 32,000 veterans are estimated to be living in Okaloosa County, with another 22,800 and 6,200 in nearby Santa Rosa and Walton counties, respectively. In the last 12 years of war, more people are coming home with post-traumatic stress disorder or difficulties with a partner related to repeated deployments, Harris said. If a veteran sees any quality of life impact — marital struggles, feeling like they are about to lose their job, getting in trouble with the law — they should come see someone, he said.

Visit the Okaloosa County Vet Center, 6 11th Ave. in Shalimar, or call 651-1000. More information is available at

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