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Sharp Health News

Connecting veterans with the care they deserve

Nov. 11, 2015

Connecting veterans with the care they deserve

In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 to be Armistice Day, commemorating the end of World War I one year prior on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

“To us in America,” he said, “the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service.”

Although Armistice Day was created to honor veterans of World War I, Congress changed the name to Veterans Day in 1954 to honor American veterans of all wars. At the time, World War II saw the greatest military mobilization in American history, and later, American forces fought in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Today, we continue to honor all U.S. veterans on the 11th day in November. Along with the gratitude we offer those who serve our country, we recognize the sacrifices made — lives lost, illness, injury, financial hardship and the emotional scars the trauma of war can leave.

“A lot of veterans from the Vietnam War-era and from the more modern wars have experienced trauma,” says Dr. Nancy Burlak, a licensed marriage and family therapist and manager of specialty outpatient programs at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital. “Many veterans return home suffering from depression, hyper-vigilance, nightmares, difficulty sleeping, challenges functioning in jobs, substance abuse and trouble relating to their loved ones.”

Immediate and effective care for those who served

To improve access to care for our nation’s veterans and help meet their health care needs, Congress passed and the President signed the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act in 2014. TriWest Healthcare Alliance administers the Veterans Choice Program (VCP) along with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). VCP allows veterans to seek care from private sector providers if the veteran faces wait times longer than 30 days to receive care from a VA medical facility, or when the closest VA medical facility is farther than 40 miles driving distance from the veteran’s residence.

Locally, TriWest chose Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital — the only San Diego County mental health hospital within the program — to support the VA by providing excellent mental health care to our region’s large veteran population.

According to the VA, nearly 31 percent of Vietnam veterans, 10 percent of Gulf War veterans, 11 percent of veterans of the war in Afghanistan and 20 percent of Iraqi war veterans are affected by post-traumatic stress — or PTS — which can develop after experiencing trauma that involves physical harm or the threat of harm to the sufferer or someone nearby. People who experience PTS may feel anxious or frightened even when there is no longer a threat of danger.

Through the VCP at Sharp Mesa Vista, local veterans receive a thorough assessment to determine the type of treatment they need and to provide immediate and effective, evidence-based treatment for PTS and other conditions such as addiction, personality disorders, anxiety and depression.

“Sharp Mesa Vista is special because we have so many programs to offer and we can treat whatever mental health concern our vets may have,” says Dr. Burlak. “We can provide outpatient, individual or group therapy; inpatient services; medicine management; family therapy — whatever they need. We have a great working relationship with the VA and TriWest, allowing us to coordinate the treatment San Diego’s veterans deserve easily and without a wait.”

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