A proposal to move a post-traumatic stress disorder treatment program from Waco to Temple that drew opposition two years ago is being considered again.
The Central Texas Veterans Health Care System is considering moving the Post Traumatic Stress Residential Rehabilitation Program from Waco’s Doris Miller Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center to Temple’s Olin E. Teague Veterans’ Medical Center and the Women’s Trauma Recovery Center from Temple to Waco.
"The purpose of this is to make sure that we are that we are wrapping our services around our patients, instead of our patients wrapping up their care around our healthcare system,” Medical Center Director Christopher Sandles said.
He added this would allow some of the participants of the residential program who need services in the domiciliary, such as substance abuse treatment, to undergo treatment at the same time.
"We believe by combining the PTSD program with our domiciliary, we will be able to treat these conditions concurrently, overall shortening the overall length of stay and allowing them to return to their lives and their families,” Sandles said.
JD Collett who lost his son to suicide enrolled in the PTSD program in 2009. Before the Vietnam veteran started the treatment, the 70-year-old admits to trying to commit suicide.
"I pretty well lived in a bottle. I didn't have to worry about my family because they had my retirement. I was on a downhill slide,” Collett said.
The two-time Purple Heart recipient stated the program helped him turn his life around.
"They pretty much gave me my life back because my life was under a tomb before then,” Collett said.
He is now committed to helping other veterans but he is worried about the PTSD program potentially changing locations.
"My big concern is that you lose the integrity and you put the veterans in the program at risk if you don't have that qualified staff,” Collett said.
Associate Chief of Staff for Mental Health Dr. Solomon Williams said Waco employees are being offered the option to work at the Temple facility. He added that if they wish to remain working at the Waco facility, staff in Temple can also provide the needed care.
"They're standing ready and qualified to do what's needed. If there is need to provide additional training, the healthcare system is standing ready to do this as well,” Williams said.
Sandles added the move of the Women’s Trauma Recovery Center would also be beneficial.
"This will give us an opportunity to give our female veterans, the unique space they deserve, give the program an opportunity to grow and remove that co-location environment that they are dealing with now in Temple,” Sandles said.
Women’s Army Corps Veterans Association Chapter #94 president Adrianne Evans-Quickley who served in the U.S. Army for more than 25 years said the program would be better off in its own location.
"We're hopeful that the program will be a success with the changes,” Evans-Quickley said.
Currently, the program has an 8-bed inpatient unit in its domiciliary, a large rehabilitation program for veterans suffering mental health issues and dealing with substance abuse, in Temple.
"You can't mix with those with substance abuse and problems with women who have sexual trauma and other issues. The two of them don't mix. It's just an accident waiting to happen,” Evans-Quickley said.
Congressman Bill Flores (R-District 17) who was opposed to the move of the PTSD residential program in 2016 said he is in favor of resources for female veterans to be moved to Waco.
“On the other hand if they're justifying that as being the reason to move a larger set of veterans resources away then we could have a situation where veterans as a whole male or female in McLennan County are losing and I don't want that to happen,” Flores said.
The U.S. Rep. said the plans to send a letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure the agency is complying with the will of U.S. Congress. He referenced that back in 2005, lawmakers stated the PTSD program and resources from it were meant to be used for research of the disorder and mental health issues for returning war veterans.
Flores who said he officially heard about the proposal on Jan. 8, plans to meet with veterans in Central Texas this spring to get feedback about the change and request data that can justify the move.
The Central Texas VA Healthcare System has the summer of 2018 as a proposed date for the change. The participants currently in the program are expected to be able to complete it, before the move occurs.
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