Laborers Local 42 hosts Kaufman Fund’s Mental Health Collaborative for veterans


LABORERS LOCAL 42 hosted the first ever Kaufman Fund Mental Health Collaborative conference at its union hall on May 18. Veterans shared their stories and learned what resources are available for themselves and their families. – Labor Tribune photo

Laborers Local 42 hosted the Kaufman Fund’s first-ever Mental Health Collaborative conference May 18 at the union hall on South Ewing in St. Louis.

Local 42 Vice President Matt Andrews, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, is president of Local 42’s Veterans Committee and sits on the advisory board of the Kaufman Fund.

“This is kind of near and dear to my heart,” Andrews said. “There’s a lot of correlation between veterans’ mental health and tradesmen’s mental health because there’s a lot of veterans within the trades. Our goal with the Mental Health Collaborative is to branch out and provide resources for them as well.

“A big part of mental health is employment,” he said. “And we’re trying to create an avenue for veterans transitioning into the trades, specifically the Laborers.

“Through our apprenticeship program, these guys and gals can come out and utilize their G.I. benefits while going through the apprenticeship program, so they can come out and make full scale and the company will be reimbursed for them,” Andrews said. “They use their military experience as credit for the apprenticeship program. Since it’s a department of Labor accredited program, these guys and gals can start out at full scale. So they can work and get full journeyman scale and the company will get reimbursed the difference through the G.I. bill.”

Every day, 20 veterans in the United States die by suicide. Of those who die by suicide, 14 of them are not enrolled in VA Healthcare. One of the goals of the Kaufman Fund is to fill that and other gaps to help veterans.

The Kaufman Fund created the Mental Health Collaborative with qualified mental health professionals to provide access to needed mental health care, both for veterans and their families.

The Kaufman Fund works with licensed therapists to provide service to veterans for free or at a reduced rate paid for by the Kaufman Fund. The fund also partners with the VA to help veterans who either won’t go to the VA or can’t get the mental health help they need or themselves and their families.

“The VA can help you as a veteran but they really can’t get into your children and your family, and mental health is no different from drug addiction, alcohol addiction, it affects the whole family. said Wayne Kaufman, president of the Kaufman Fund.

“We are now partnered up with about eight outside clinical, social agencies and therapists that are willing to do pro bono work or at very reduced rates that we would finance to not only help the veteran but their families also.”

“Not all vets are struggling,” said Ashley Norton chair of the Kaufman Fund’s Mental Health Collaborative. “The aid is for vets who say, ‘I’m a vet and I have a lot of trauma, I don’t use the VA and I don’t know what to do.’ Or it could be 20 years after they’ve come back and it all at once comes back and they don’t know where to navigate or where to start.

“Vets really hold everything in. There’s multiple reasons for that. They’re taught in boot camp that no matter what happens you lace up your boot straps and you keep going, no matter what. That’s the mentality that lot of folks have. You just keep going and you keep going until all of a sudden you can’t.”

If you are a veteran in an immediate mental health crisis, please call the VA Crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or call or text the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline to talk with a mental health professional.

In addition to the Mental Health Collaborative, the Kaufman Fund also strives to bring the veteran community together to help those in need of housing, counseling, healthcare, dental referrals, rehabilitation, and legal needs.

For more information on The Kaufman Fund, visit


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