VA moving stress care to Oahu
The residential PTSD program will be leaving Hilo
Hawaii veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) will have access to better care when the Hilo-based program moves to Oahu in January, the Department of Veterans Affairs suggests in a news release.
The Department of Veterans Affairs said it is moving its residential program for long-term patients to Oahu, where most returning Hawaii veterans live, and improving outpatient services to better meet the needs of returning troops. A larger pool of mental health specialists is available in Honolulu, the agency added.
Outpatient mental health care in Hilo will be expanded to include specialty substance abuse and PTSD. For the past 10 years, Pacific Islands Health Care System has run the 16-bed treatment program for chronic sufferers, mostly from the Vietnam War. Only 13 percent of the veterans who have used the 10-week residential program come from Hilo.
Fifteen percent of today's soldiers will suffer some form of combat stress, usually temporarily. With different types of traumatic experiences than previous patient groups, they are less inclined to need a residential treatment program.
Dr. Brian O'Neil, acting director of Pacific islands, said, "It's imperative that veterans understand that moving this program will in no way diminish mental health care for Hawaii veterans."
The Veterans Administration has treated 6,400 veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom for PTSD.
Planning for the move started when the VA could not afford the cost of renewing the lease for its Hilo facility, which expires in December.