Helena Independent Record: Tester: VA mental health wing 'step in the right direction'

For veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental health injuries, inpatient care from the VA has meant a trip to Idaho, Wyoming or South Dakota, often leaving families behind.

The new $6.7 million, 24-bed inpatient mental health wing of the VA hospital at Fort Harrison, scheduled for completion this spring, will bring care closer to home. And it’s a step toward recognition and care of health conditions that have historically been ignored.

“It’s societal. We tend not to want to address these issues because they make us uncomfortable,” said U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., on a tour Tuesday of the hospital and the new wing under construction. He called PTSD the “signature injury” of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, and said the nation failed its Vietnam-era veterans on mental health care.

“We need to treat this class of veterans better,” he said.

The new wing will include eight beds for PTSD, eight for acute inpatient mental health care and eight for substance abuse treatment. All beds will be in private rooms with private bathrooms. The acute care section will have enhanced security.

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