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Future uncertain for Yountville veterans facility after shooting

The Press Democrat - 3/13/2018

March 13--Four days after a gunman stormed into a Napa County treatment facility where he previously lived and killed three mental health workers, the program's fate remains unclear.

The California Highway Patrol-led investigation continues into the deadly events at The Pathway Home in Yountville on Friday morning as directors of the military veterans assistance program are deciding how to move forward.

But a spokesman for the center that helps former servicemen struggling with mental health issues, including shooter and former Army infantryman Albert Cheung Wong, 36, said reports that the nonprofit may not reopen are premature.

"We're not at a point of a decision yet," said Larry Kamer. "It's been a crime scene since Friday morning, so even the option of being in there is off the table (for now), and we've made alternate arrangements for the residential piece and therapeutic piece and come up with interim solutions."

The six residents of the live-in building called Madison Hall have been relocated to another location in Napa County. Decisions affecting the seven remaining staff members, including Kamer's wife, also are being finalized, with some decisions being made as early as today.

"Whether or not the Madison Hall facility on the Yountville veterans campus is going to be in our long-term future, we don't know the answer to that question," said Kamer. "The bigger question is, is the need to help veterans who are experiencing difficult mental health issues ... still there? In a sad and ironic way, the incident Friday shows that these types of services are more important than ever."

Madison Hall, which Pathway Home leases from the California Department of Veterans Affairs, or CalVet, has a building capacity for 32 residents. On Friday, its staffing level allowed for up to 14 residents. CalVet did not return calls Monday night, but Kamer believed the state agency was in the beginning stages of repairing the damages to the building from the gunfire exchanged between Wong and police Friday morning.

The murders of three of its clinicians -- executive director Christine Loeber, therapist Jen Golick and psychologist Jennifer Gonzales Shushereba -- mean the nonprofit must quickly find another licensed mental health care provider to maintain its state license. Negotiations are underway for an interim clinician subcontractor.

Meanwhile, Pathway Home is also focused on setting up proper channels to answer questions from the Yountville community, in addition to finalizing online donation platforms.

The "3 Brave Women Fund" was established to benefit the victims' families, and, because Pathway Home receives no government aid, it will also continue to accept public support to fund the program.

Since opening in 2008, Pathway Home says it has treated more than 450 veterans suffering from the lasting effects of deployment into conflict zones. Following an initial $5 million seed donation to start the program, the nonprofit has had fewer dollars in its annual revenues, down from nearly $1.2 million in 2014 to about $533,000 in 2016, according to GuideStar, an information service that reports on nonprofits.

Kamer disputed that the decrease represented financial problems. He said its board of directors retooled the program's model a few years ago to be more sustainable and provide improved holistic, wraparound services rather than trying to handle veterans who were on the brink of crisis.

"Right now, in the short term, I think we're OK," he said. "Long term, yeah, we're going to need to go back to our very generous community and ask them to step up. The need (for the program) is certainly there, and the plan is for that to happen. It's in what form and location that it's just too early to tell, and there are so many things on our plate right now to ensure the care of the guys still in our care."

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(c)2018 The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, Calif.)

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