Sunday, April 14, 2013

New VA mental health center puts veterans and families under one roof

New VA mental health center puts veterans and families under one roof
By Megan McCloskey
Stars and Stripes
Published: April 14, 2013

BAY SHORE, NY — At a new VA mental health facility here, veterans go to the right, their families to the left — and their doctors meet in the middle.

The Unified Behavioral Health Center for Military Veterans and Their Families is a first-of-its-kind partnership between the Department of Veterans Affairs and private health care that will treat veterans and their families holistically under one roof.

One side of the small center houses VA psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and counselors, and the other side has counterparts from North Shore Long Island Jewish Health System, which provides care to veteran families at no cost.

The heart of the novel concept, the clinicians say, is their shared conference room.

With the patient’s consent, the clinicians from both divisions will “come together as a team and talk about the issues,” allowing them to coordinate treatment plans based on what’s happening with the entire family, said Charlene Thomesen, director of the VA side of the center.

“For example, we can better treat the wife because we’re informed of what’s happening to veteran,”said Mayer Bellehsen, a psychologist and Thomesen’s counterpart on the family side of the center.

At the center’s grand opening in December, Robert Petzel, the VA’s under secretary for health, spoke about how the VA wasn’t here “just to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, or depression, or substance abuse. We’re here to treat complex human beings.

“And bringing the families into the treatment equation is something we should have started doing years ago. It’s long overdue.”
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All I can say is it's about time!