Religious group offers alternative to counseling for PTSD victims, but is actually a scam (protected by law).

Religious group offers alternative to counseling for PTSD victims, but is actually a scam (protected by law). September 19, 2016

A group call Operation Zhero provides counseling for victims, particularly veterans, of PTSD. That sounds great and all, but there’s a problem in how they go about it:

First of all, PTSD is a complex condition often accompanied by depression, severe anxiety and substance abuse. Some patients are suicidal or psychotic.

Secondly, as reported recently by the Register’s Tony Leys, Operation Zhero provides PTSD treatment through unlicensed volunteer counselors who deliver seven hours of therapy and dispense no medication. There has been no independent assessment of the efficacy of their treatment.

And finally, Operation Zhero pitches its treatment not just as an adjunct to traditional medical treatment, but as an “alternative” to traditional medicine — although the counselors say they don’t encourage participants to stop taking medication or participating in therapy recommended by licensed professionals.

Yeah, some random derp off the street is an alternative to medicine, in the same way that starvation is an alternative to eating. That’s grossly irresponsible to pretend you could fulfill such an important role without any training and an outright insult to the people who spent years in school, paying both dues and tuition fees, to ensure they could do it properly.

Operation Zhero has set a goal of having 600 Iowa veterans try its therapy this year, and it’s publicly soliciting donations to help pay for it, stating that the average cost per patient is $1,750, or $250 per hour.

What the living fuck? Do actual therapists get paid that much per hour? What do these patients get for that outrageous number?

Wind and Fire Ministries says that it has three core mandates: “night-and-day prayer, spiritual equipping and being a place of refuge and restoration.” The ministry offers equine therapy — interaction between people and horses — as part of its work. On the organization’s web site, Lumbard defines “one fact that few people know” about him in this manner: “I think a possibility exists that Sasquatch is alive and well.”

Are you fucking kidding me? $250 to pet a horse and get prayed for? That’s a scam in and of itself. Add to it the fact that these people are targeting those suffering from PTSD and this ought to be downright criminal.

But apparently it’s not:

[Organization leader Ric Lumbard] says he is confident it’s legal for his volunteers to treat PTSD, because they’re serving a church organization and are engaged in “pastoral counseling.” No doubt he’s correct, as Iowa law, unfortunately, allows “members of the clergy” to engage in psychology and mental health therapy as long as they don’t claim to be licensed members of the professions.

Ah, so if anybody else does it, they’re a con artist. If religious people do it, they’re just good Christians and why would we ever try to stop them? Got it. This is ri-god-damn-diculous.

Who is in charge of this scam anyway? Meet Ric Lumbard:

The organization’s spokesman, and one of its leaders, is Ric Lumbard of Marion. Court documents and tax records indicate Lumbard works 35 hours per week for Wind and Fire Ministries, a nonprofit missionary group where he serves as CEO and senior pastor. But since 2014 Lumbard has also been employed by the state as the full-time executive director of the Iowa Communications Network, where he collects an annual salary of $132,000.

In 2004, Lumbard and his wife filed for personal bankruptcy. Among the $348,000 in debts they listed: more than $112,000 in unpaid credit-card bills; $160,000 owed on a Cessna Golden Eagle airplane; and roughly $43,000 for aircraft repairs, upgrades and related expenses.

During the bankruptcy proceedings, Wind and Fire Ministries — Lumbard’s own tax-exempt charity — bought out some of the couple’s personal debt. Court records indicate the charity paid $50,000 to relieve the Lumbards of financial obligations tied to a “lifetime lease” on real estate that was then costing them $1,500 per month.

Lumbard says the deal enabled his ministry to continue its operations at that site. Otherwise, he said, the property would have been “sold out from under them.”

Ah, a life-long con man whose figured out that religion both provides him with willing victims and a way to evade punishment. I’m sorry, I’m supposed to just call him “pastor”, aren’t I?

None of this is to suggest that Lumbard and Operation Zhero don’t have veterans’ best interests at heart, but it does raise questions. Operation Zhero is vague as to the precise nature of its work, and some of the organization’s records say the counselors — some of whom aren’t ministers — practice “faith-based trauma mitigation.”

Jeffrey Kramer, a Des Moines mental health therapist, told the Register he is concerned about unlicensed, lightly trained volunteers treating PTSD. “They can call it alternative medicine, but it’s not medicine at all,” he said. “They’ve got a bunch of untrained people trying a quasi-therapeutic intervention. To me, that’s asking for disaster.”

Yeah, no shit?

Why am I so opposed to religion getting special treatment? This is why. This is not religious freedom, because nobody else is free to orchestrate a malicious hoax like this. This is flat out special treatment — so special it ignores the interests of their victims, which is the exact opposite of what laws are supposed to do.

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