Regions Hospital has launched a new mental health program for veterans that is believed to be the only one of its kind in the state.
The program will be available to current and former service members and their families during inpatient hospitalization or partial hospitalization.
The program, known as HeroCare, offers evidence-based treatment to meet the specific needs of veterans. It includes a specialist who is a military veteran and an expert at navigating military benefits and resources. The specialist assists patients and their families by connecting them with financial, housing and employment assistance.
It also starts with asking the simple question: Are you a vet?
“There really is this perception that veterans would just go to the VA. For whatever reason, they are coming to us and we were not even asking their veteran status,” said Dr. John Kuzma, a HealthPartners physician and medical director of Regions Hospital’s inpatient mental health program. Kuzma is himself a veteran and a former Army psychiatrist. “There was really an importance in being able to identify veterans that we’re caring for and recognizing some of the unique needs that they have.”
The program coordinates care with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. military.
According to the VA, 22 percent of all suicides in the United States in 2010 were veterans. The most common mental illnesses veterans experience are Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression and substance use disorders.
The program also focuses on therapies that help manage the symptoms and challenges that veterans experience associated with mental illnesses. It includes sensory integration, which helps the brain’s ability to process different sensory messages that occur all the time. The therapy is especially beneficial to patients who experience PTSD and helps reduce stress, anxiety and improve sleep.
The HeroCare program is a pilot project that officials hope to make permanent.