ALMOST £700,000 will be pumped into Portsmouth to create a flagship mental health centre for veterans traumatised by war.
The huge sum of cash has been presented to the Portsmouth Military Mental Health Alliance through the armed forces covenant.
The group, made up of health organisations and military groups, will be investing the money in a two-year programme.
It will see the creation of a new ‘open access’ military mental health hub for veterans and their families, giving ‘on the day’ support for those in desperate need - speeding up the time service heroes can begin their treatment.
A ‘rapid response’ service, staffed by veterans who have overcome their own battle with mental health, will also be established for ex-troops in immediate crisis.
Finally, a chunk of cash will go towards setting up the Solent Recovery College, which will focus on education, helping people to learn about mental health problems and how to beat them.
The news has thrilled armed forces campaigners, who have been battling for better services for those left scarred by their military service.
Retired Lieutenant Colonel Chris Parker is the chairman of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment Association, which is part of the city’s military health alliance.
The former Cowplain officer - who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after his time in Iraq - welcomed the fact veterans would be involved in supporting their fellow comrades.
He said: ‘This is a phenomenal success story for Portsmouth. Having veterans helping veterans will see an exponential rise in care and removal of problems.’
Former Royal Navy Commander, Ian Millen, is the chairman of Veterans Outreach Support in Portsea, which brings together a range of support agencies and health bodies to help ex-forces personnel.
He said: ’Portsmouth and the Solent region should be a beacon for others to follow.
‘This funding will make a huge difference in the lives of so many veterans.’
The military alliance is made up of Solent NHS Trust, Solent Mind, Society of St James, the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment Association, ExforcesNet and Portsmouth’s Clinical Commissioning Group.
In all £697,188 will be pumped into the city for the programme.
Sarah Austin, Solent NHS Trust’s chief operating officer for Portsmouth was ‘delighted’ by the cash windfall and said: ‘The money will significantly improve how we meet the needs of veterans and their families across Portsmouth.
‘It will help to fund a new open access facility and a rapid response service for those veterans in immediate crisis. It will also create a specific curriculum in the Recovery College to help individuals study about their mental health.
‘The alliance has an ambition to create a centre of military mental health excellence in the city of Portsmouth.’
Former soldier Daniel Arnold, co-founder of Portsmouth-based forces group All Call Signs, said it was ‘positive to hear’ such a ‘substantial sum’ had been ‘ring-fenced for veterans’ in the city.
The news comes as campaigners from Portsmouth today prepare to head to Whitehall to take part in a major debate into Britain’s suicide epidemic among veterans.
The parliamentary hearing is due to take place from 4.30pm and has been organised by Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth South MP.