TEMPLE TERRACE, Fla. — After serving our country, countless veterans come home with PTSD or other mental health issues from intense combat overseas. So the VA is now building a new Mental Health Clinic, focused 100% on addressing the mental well-being of our veterans, that's so desperately needed.
"Veterans, who are eligible for care because of their service connection, income, etc.? There is no cost to them at all," explained Clinical Psychologist Dr. Glenn Smith, who oversees all of the VA's mental health programs off-campus.
Smith has been instrumental in creating an extensive program that will be implemented in the New Mental Health Center at 8501 Temple Terrace Highway in Tampa, now under construction.
"One of the programs that will be embedded is specifically the PTSD clinical team that is focused specifically on PTSD itself," Smith said.
The new building will offer a full range of mental health programs, not only for PTSD but also for substance abuse, insomnia, anxiety, and depression, utilizing Evidence-based Psychotherapy protocols or EBPs.
"This is a whole series of psychotherapy interventions that are, as the name suggests, based upon evidence research. And the more that our research base improves, the more therapies we've been able to offer," he explained.
Other specialized programs will include geriatric psychiatry, a women's center, and a suicide prevention team.
"Every veteran is being screened for suicide. And those who are screened and are positive are seen both in primary care by the psychologist and potentially, depending on the need and the nature, may also be flagged in terms of this is somebody we may need to pay particular attention to, and then are followed on a very comprehensive sort of way by our suicide prevention team," Smith added.
For those veterans who struggle with depression and found no relief with medication, a new non-invasive form of brain stimulation will be offered.
''Something called TMS, which stands for Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. And this is a treatment for resistant depression. But it requires an infrastructure and equipment in order to provide it to the veteran. Well, we're going to build that directly into this new building,'' Smith said.
The new clinic will also have trained employees go out in the field to check on veterans under its new Mental Health Intensive Case Management Program.
''The clinicians actually will go out to the homes of some veterans, who are involved, to try to make sure that they're doing well. And obviously, they suffer from some pretty significant symptoms and so on. And hopefully, with the intervention, and with some change, we can potentially bring them in for the outpatient therapy,'' he added.
With so many veterans also suffering from homelessness and other issues, there will be an in-house facility with 30 beds to offer a residential substance abuse program for veterans to detox and get comprehensive treatment.
"We're going to add a second residential program wing for substance abuse because one of the reasons that we've done this is we found that there's a real co-occurrence between homelessness and substance abuse," Smith explained.
Primary Care Mental Health Integration will allow veterans to get immediate psychotherapy, if needed, during a visit with their primary care doctor.
"We have psychologists embedded in primary care so that the veteran seeing the provider, the doctor for a medical condition and says, 'You know, I've really been having some problems with my mood,' say, 'You know what? I have a psychologist here, and we'll bring him right into the room.' And be able to speak with them," he said.
Smith also said there would be areas for veterans to exercise and practice mindfulness with a healing garden, passive meditation walkway, and basketball courts.
All the mental health programs that now exist at the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital will be transferred to the new Mental Health Clinic when it opens, which is expected to be in early 2024.