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California veterans treatment center will not reopen after fatal shooting

By MARY CALLAHAN | The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, Calif. | Published: July 23, 2018

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (Tribune News Service) — A Yountville residential treatment center for combat-stressed veterans that first shut its doors last spring after a deadly shooting will close for good, officials announced Sunday.

The 10-year-old Pathway Home, which suspended operations indefinitely after a former client gunned down the nonprofit’s executive director and two clinicians March 9, plans to continue helping troubled soldiers reintegrate into society in the future, though indirectly.

In part through publication of a downloadable, step-by-step resource guide, the Pathway Home board hopes to inspire service organizations around the nation to replicate a model that has successfully aided traumatized soldiers struggling to rejoin civilian life. The board also hopes to work with Rotary Clubs like the one in Yountville, whose members embraced local veterans and provided them a support network, in addition to community interaction.

But the Pathway Home will no longer offer a residential program. Next month, it’ll relinquish its lease at Yountville’s Veterans Home of California, where the gunman killed three women and effectively brought the highly regarded program to an end.

Spokesman Larry Kamer said Sunday a permanent shift in the mission was somewhat inevitable, given the loss of key personnel, damage to the facility and related licensing disruptions. It also would have been an obvious challenge to reoccupy space associated with such tragic loss and violence, even though the building has been repaired, he said.

“I think people just did not want to work there, and I think people did not want to live there after the incident,” Kamer said. “Who can blame them?”

The shooting occurred as a Friday morning staff meeting at the Pathway Home transitioned into a going-away celebration for two employees. They were being feted by co-workers and clients when a former Army infantryman kicked out of the program two weeks earlier strode in. Heavily armed, Albert Cheung Wong took three women hostage: Executive Director Christine Loeber, 48; Jennifer Golick, 42, a therapist with the program; and Jennifer Gonzales Shushereba, 32, a San Francisco Department of Veterans Affairs Healthcare System psychologist who was more than six months pregnant.

An arriving Napa County sheriff’s deputy exchanged gunfire with Wong, allowing others present to flee. An army of law enforcement personnel still were assembling at the Yountville campus when they say Wong, 36, shot and killed the three women before taking his own life.

Shushereba’s unborn child also died.

Wong’s brother later said Wong told him days before the bloodshed he had been expelled from the program after employees found him with knives. “He wanted to get back at them,” though he did not let on there would be violence, the brother said.

Launched amid growing recognition of the complex physical, emotional and spiritual toll of modern warfare among thousands of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pathway Home offered hope to veterans with such deep emotional battle scars that nothing else seemed to help. Through intensive, innovative therapies, holistic treatments and intentional integration with the local community, participants flourished. Graduates often credited the program for giving them their lives back.

Around 450 veterans with a range of issues, including post-traumatic stress and traumatic-brain injury, passed through its doors.

But funding was always a challenge. After about a 1½-year closure beginning in 2015, the Pathway Home reopened last year to new clients using a new model.

 

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

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