Adaptive Performance Center (APC), a phenomenally successful veterans’ support organization that was founded in Billings just over two years ago, has received a $750,000 grant that opens wide the doors for its future and to be able to more completely meet the needs of its veteran members. One of APC’s expansion goals is to open a similar facility in Helena.
The grant was part of $2.15 million in federal funding for Montana by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) under the Staff Sergeant Parker Gordon Fox Suicide Prevention Grant Program . Also receiving grants were the America Northern Rockies ($750,000), and the Rocky Boy Veterans Center in Box Elder ($650,000).
APC founders Karen Pearson and Mitch Crouse are ecstatic about winning the grant and the promise it holds for them to be able to expand the training and support they provide veterans and to expand those services.
APC is a gym for veterans and enlisted military, where they can meet and talk with like-minded individuals whose association helps to build inner strength and peace while building physical strength. Pearson and Crouse launched APC as a new concept, with no guidelines or guarantees or members. Today the non-profit organization has over 500 members.
So on- target was their concept that from Day One they began signing up members, and gaining sponsors who wanted to make sure no potential member has to be turned away because of any financial concerns. And, almost every day the APC trainers witness incredible success stories as one member or another achieves a goal.
The gym is almost a front for helping veterans get support and connection with other veterans and military people that they need, explains Pearson. And, it just happens naturally, as they regularly attend to work out. The gym becomes a safe and comfortable place for them, where they find others who understand.
That they actually have an impact that helps troubled veterans who are struggling or who might even be suicidal is exactly the kind of outcome that Pearson and Crouse believed was possible given the opportunity for regular physical exercise. Now they can prove it.
Part of the grant requirements include the collection of data and documentation to prove their theory. Depending on how the first year goes with the grant funding they are eligible for grants in each of the next two years. Pearson said that one of the purposes of the grant program is to show that there is programming available to impact the suicide rate and to demonstrate how APC can impact the suicide rate and help with mental health.
Pearson and Crouse each bring their own knowledge and unique experiences to APC. In each of their experiences in providing physical training for people, who had traumatic situations to deal with, they realized that physical exercise was hugely beneficial in that process. As Crouse frequently reiterates, “Move your body, heal your mind.”
Crouse learned that reality first hand in struggling to recover from a severe injury he suffered in a car accident. Pearson recognized the connection in dealing with patients who were veterans trying to integrate back into families and adapt to regular life after serving in the military. She saw them struggle with PTSD and knew those, who believing there was no hope, committed suicide.
With the grant funding, the first order of business has been to fill gaps in the support and services that they have identified over the past couple of years. “We can hire people to fill those gaps,” said Pearson.
They have hired four additional trainers in the gym, which means they don’t have to rely on volunteers and always have trainers available.
Two of the people they are hiring are Veteran’s Advocates – a man and a woman who will share a full-time position. The advocates are needed to help direct veterans how to deal with getting their needs met, and where to go, what processes are necessary. To help them fill out forms, etc. – “anything they need that is intimidating and frustrating and prompts them to give up,” said Pearson.
They are also hiring a part time therapist and acupuncturist, and a full time occupational therapist who will split their time between the gyms in Billings and Helena.
Getting a second APC off the ground has been a struggle because there is a shortage of the kind of space they need in Helena. But they have finally found a 9600 square foot building in which they will be able to duplicate the facility in Billings. They will also be hiring the same level of staffing in Helena. Funding for most of the equipment and fixtures that will be needed has already been acquired from an early sponsor, said Crouse, and it is sitting in escrow waiting for a building. They plan to be open in January.
Montana ranks right at the top of having the highest suicide rate in the nation. Pearson noted that from 2018 to 2020 active duty suicide increased by more than 40 percent, and in 2020 in Alaska it jumped 15 percent.
The founding duo of APC urged that anyone who knows a veteran or active duty military, to urge them to check out their gym and services.
Anyone who has their D2-14 discharge papers can join ACP. It doesn’t matter where or when or how they served, they simply have to have served. The cost is $19.95 a month, but no one is turned away because of inability to pay. In fact, APC has numerous individuals, businesses and organizations, who have will pay the dues of anyone who can’t afford to do so. Between 35 and 40 percent of their members depend on such contributions, and they are very appreciative.
APC gym is located at 1420 Broadwater in Billings