Tucson VA opening new mental health, rehab facility

Tucson VA opening new mental health, rehab facility

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Tucson-area veterans have a new facility to treat mental health and substance abuse issues.

The Southern Arizona VA Health Care System is opening its new Mental Health Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Program on Thursday, Feb. 23.

Returning home can be a tough adjustment mentally. The risk of suicide is just one of one of several issues veterans may face.

The newly-constructed building is expected to make care more accessible to Tucson VA patients.

The building is a very modern, energy-saving structure. However, what strikes you when you walk in is it feels like you're walking into a hotel lobby.

That's on purpose. The intent is to make it feel less like a hospital or institution and more like a homey, warm, inviting place.

"You can focus on yourself and coming into treatment, instead of the chaos that's outside of these walls," said Chief of the Tucson VA Mental Health Department and U.S. Air Force veteran Dr. Lucretia Vaughan.

"For me this is a godsend," said VA patient Vernon Williams, a U.S. Army veteran. "This building is a safe haven for veterans."

Williams has seen the evolution of VA programs in Tucson as he has received treatment for combat-related and childhood-related post traumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD, and for substance abuse.

"The program today literally saved my life because, at one time, suicide was looking very inviting to me," Williams said.

Not any more.

In fact, Williams is considering becoming a Peer Support Specialist to help his fellow veterans.

The VA already offers treatment for PTSD and substance abuse, but the programs were scattered, not in one place until now.

"Combining PTSD treatment with our substance use treatment, those are very co-mingled problems that people have," Dr. Vaughan said. "If they need them both, we can offer them both types of treatment in one facility, which is huge."

The new building has 25 beds and some unique design features that help give veterans privacy, even in shared rooms. There are amenities such as a fitness center and a meditation room to make the stay more comfortable.
The designers' used natural elements such as wood, stone and light. 
"What type of environment will help them heal through this," said Tucson VA Health Systems Specialist Kathy Kretschmer. "It just really speaks volumes in terms of getting them to a better place."

Checking in to the facility is voluntary.

Patients are with other veterans who often have similar pasts, are experiencing similar challenges, and who have similar goals.  
Williams puts his experience and the experiences he hopes his fellow veterans will have this way:  "The military has a saying, 'No one left behind.' This truly is an example of no veteran left behind."

There is a Veterans Crisis Line for veterans in crisis and for their loved ones. Click HERE or call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1.

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