Monroe County cuts funding to private eco-therapy program for veterans, plans to launch its own program later this year


MONROE COUNTY, N.Y. — An eco-therapy program for veterans with PTSD, depression and other mental health issues is on hold after Monroe County stopped funding the private contractor who was running it.

Trybe Ecotherapy had been running the clinical nature-based therapy for two years, serving more than 50 veteran clients who were dealing with various mental health issues like complex PTSD and suicidality. Initially, Monroe County contracted with Trybe for $125,000/year to provide the service locally. Then, it bumped the contract to $300,000/year to expand the program to more veterans. But recently, the contract was discontinued.

“The success of the program has been clear to us, clear enough that we had doubled the funding for it,” explains Nick Stefanovic, Monroe County’s Director of Veteran Services. “We contracted with a private company for this program; that contract unfortunately had to be disconnected due to personnel issues. The funding remains with the county, and we are in the process right now of continuing to build that program so it is up and running again in a very similar capacity, making sure that we get the same success rates, but it’s a county program.”

The county won’t elaborate further on its issues with Trybe but says it is in the process of hiring new clinicians who can design a nature-based treatment program. “We need somebody who is experienced with it and licensed to do it and that can be difficult; those people aren’t everywhere but we are right now in the process of building,” Stefanovic says. “In the meantime, we’ve been continuing communication with all the veterans who have been in the program to make sure that they’re doing okay; we actually allocated funding directly to that, to fill the gap.”

The county has reserved space at Lucien Moran Park for veterans who’ve already been through the clinical program but continue weekly group meetings. Stefanovic says he is hoping the new cohorts in a new clinical program will start by early 2024.

In a statement, one of the owners of Trybe Ecotherapy tells News10NBC, “The leadership at Monroe County Veterans Service Agency made the decision to discontinue services with Trybe without involving the company and without providing an explanation for their decision. Trybe Ecotherapy LLC had successfully completed two years of clinical Nature-Based Therapy, benefiting over fifty veteran clients who were dealing with various mental health issues, particularly complex PTSD and suicidality. This sudden, and unexpected decision has left participating veterans in a state of crisis with no program closure, and has caused distress among future-enrolled veterans. Trybe firmly believes there was no reason they could not continue to deliver these services with the highest level of care to those enrolled, as required by the two-year extension unanimously approved by the County legislature. Unfortunately, it appears these efforts were undermined by individuals within the VSA. In the swift decision to discontinue Trybe and establish it in a different format, doubts and concerns arise regarding this department’s capability to effectively develop a curriculum and recruit suitably qualified and experienced staff who can deliver a comparable level of care. It is worth noting that the author and main executor of the curriculum are not involved, while the so-called ‘stop-gap’ measures implemented thus far have proven inadequate or even detrimental to Trybe’s veteran clients.”

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