Resources, treatment available to help veterans in crisis

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — In federal court Wednesday, the U.S. Army veteran who attacked Rep. Lee Zeldin in July 2022 pleaded guilty to assaulting a federal official.

David Jakubonis told Judge Marian W. Payton he’s still under mental health care.

“I’m very focused on my recovery and I’m going to continue on that trajectory going forward,” Jakubonis said.

Jakubonis said on the day he attacked Zeldin — a Republican congressman who was running for governor — at a campaign event in Perinton, he was very intoxicated and thought he heard Zeldin make derogatory comments about veterans.

In October a judge sent Jakubonis to an in-patient alcohol treatment center. He finished his stay there in March and has been under house arrest at a local recovery home.

The Veterans Outreach Center in Rochester explained some of the services offered to veterans in need.

“That includes mental health, it includes substance abuse disorder. Other times it could be legal challenges,” Laura Heltz, executive director of the VOC, said.

Heltz further explained about 25% of veterans experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Of that 25%, some of them can get treatment and move forward pretty successfully, however others struggle.

“We think any veteran that is struggling with PTSD and possibly going down that path towards suicidal ideations — they need our help, especially in those situations when the military is the driving cause,” Heltz said.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the veterans crisis line says it is experiencing record call volume. In March, the crisis line received more than 88,000 calls, texts and chats. It’s the highest number of monthly contacts it has ever had.

Its annual contacts have also increased, rising 15 percent between 2020 and 20222.

The VOC also has a homeless shelter for veterans and a permanent affordable housing complex, along with employment training. It also works with local legal non-profit organizations to offer veterans case management.

When Jakubonis left federal court, he said he was pleased with the help he has received.

“I’m grateful for all the support I had, including the veterans court and other court mentors and my attorney,” he said.

If you are a veteran or know a veteran who needs help, you can contact the Veterans Outreach Center.