$43.3B state budget includes funding for veteran mediation training

  • Veterans mediation trainer Ben Cluff of the Massachusetts Department of Public Healthcoaches two veterans as they practice to be mediators. Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner provides the training space at no cost. Veterans Mediation

Staff Writer
Published: 8/1/2019 2:41:24 PM

ORANGE — There’s a “huge” need for veteran mediation services in the region, according to Quabbin Mediation Executive Director Sharon Tracy.

Last month, Massachusetts legislature approved $100,000 in funding for a veteran-to-veteran mediation training program administered by Quabbin Mediation. It was filed as an amendment to the House budget by Rep. Susannah Whipps, I-Athol. 

On Wednesday, Gov. Charlie Baker signed a $43.3 billion state budget that includes the funding for the mediation training.

The funding will help to equip more than 200 veterans with the skills to help their fellow veterans facing challenges through 35-hour professional trainings and six-hour skills trainings. These skills will be used to provide mediation services in more than 10,000 cases involving veterans and family members. “Our trainers are always military connected,” Tracy said.

Created in 2007, the Veterans Mediation program facilitates communication confidentially to resolve veterans’ homelessness, unemployment, health and mental health problems, trauma and family relationship problems, and provides access to benefits. 

Quabbin Mediation, at 13 South Main St. on the civilian floor of the Orange Courthouse, was established in 1995 as a nonprofit organization to provide mediation services and training to the community, approved by the Massachusetts Trial Court. Tracy estimates that in its 25 to 30 years, Quabbin Mediation has served from 30,000 to 50,000 people in this region and along the Connecticut River Valley. 

“We get regular requests for mediation, often military connected,” Tracy said, citing a case where a veteran was no longer homeless and wanted to reestablish his relationship with his family. “It’s hard to maintain a home if you don’t have a job, if relationships with family are difficult, and if you end up homeless. They’re all really interconnected.”

Tracy said free professional mediation skills training has been provided to 1,000 veterans and those who are active military, the Guard and Reserves, to help serve their peers. “We did a survey of people trained and they said they use their mediation skills, at minimum, once a week in the course of their job.” Reports and studies have shown evidence of the effectiveness of veterans employing the mediation process with veterans they serve.

Sen. Anne M. Gobi, D-Spencer, has attended a graduation of the mediators and has spoken to veterans who have been helped by the mediators. “It is great to see such a successful program and one that started in our region and spreading nationwide.”

Sen. Joanne Comerford, D-Amherst, called Quabbin Mediation’s work with veterans “cutting-edge” and said it “fills a significant need for an important community of people who have served our nation and deserve our support.”

Whipps said Quabbin Mediation has done “a fantastic job training veterans to assist other veterans” and was “honored to join Senators Gobi and Comerford in securing funding for this valuable program.”

Tracy said, “It will certainly further our efforts to continue teaching veterans and other military-connected people skills they can use to prevent homelessness, family and children issues, any kind of conflict you can think of.”

The most recent graduates from the Veterans Mediation training session, conducted by trainers Christopher Shaddock, Harvey Weiner, Robert Mayer, Ben Cluff, April Lane-Taba included: Peter Vickery, Gaurav Khanna, Eliza Graton, Shanna King, David Lauzon, Carol Mayer, Ann Reynolds, Amy LaBarge, Richard Drohen, Earl Bonneett, Paul Zbikowski, Richard Bedell, Sheila Pelletier, Cassparina Carlson, John Medeiros and George Charos. The graduates were congratulated by Whipps, Zlotnik, Gobi and Eladia Romero (aide to U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern).

For more information about Quabbin Mediation or the Veterans Mediation program, call 978-544-6142, visit www.quabbinmediation.org, or email vets@quabbinmediation.org. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 9-5.

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