Q. With the growing number of veterans leaving the service and locating here, is our veterans service office prepared to handle the issues of post-traumatic stress and suicide?
The behavioral staff of the VA hospital in Salisbury say they are.
As the mental health needs grow for veterans and active-duty military, so, too, do the programs at the W. G. Hefner VA Medical Center in Salisbury, the behavioral staff says.
One phase of the hospitals new Mental Health Center of Excellence opened last summer. A 75,000-square-foot addition, which stands in stark contrast to the hospitals 60-year-old brick campus, will join it later this year.
Meanwhile, work continues on a 295,000-square-foot VA clinic in Charlotte, which will open in 2015 and is designed to better serve the estimated 100,000 veterans now living in Mecklenburg County.
The Salisbury medical center already operates clinics in Charlotte, Hickory and Winston-Salem. All have psychiatrists and psychologists on staff and offer a wide variety of outpatient behavioral care, officials say.
Nationwide, the VA is adding 1,900 new mental-health professionals, designed to treat the growing behavioral needs of veterans and soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Sixteen of the jobs are coming to Salisbury.
Mental health has been a longtime focus of the Salisbury hospital, which serves 24 N.C. counties.
It operates an intensive six-week residential treatment program for military personnel from around the Southeast experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder.
Theres also a suicide-prevention program; an emergency room that the VA says is trained to handle all forms of crisis behavioral care; an in-patient substance-abuse program with 35 beds, and growing use of telepsychiatry to put more vets in touch with medical care through a computer screen.
To overcome the chronic stigma of mental illness, the Veterans Administration has launched a campaign called Its OK to Ask for Help.
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