Published online on Tuesday, May. 19, 2009:
The veterans hospital in Fresno broke ground for a new mental-health outpatient center Tuesday — the first new building at the hospital in nearly 25 years. The two-story building will serve veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, among others, who have substance-abuse problems and mental-health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
The hospital will have three psychologists and a psychiatrist who will specialize in chemical dependency and post-traumatic stress disorder, said Nestar Manzano, chief of mental-health services. “The team will be able to treat both conditions at one time,” he said.
The Veterans Affairs Central California Healthcare System treats more than 4,000 veterans a year for mental-health issues. Last year, it saw more than 500 veterans for chemical-dependency problems, Manzano said. The new building is designed so a third floor can be added. It will allow the hospital to keep up with demand for mental-health and substance-abuse services, said Al Perry, the health system’s director.
Beginning in 2003, the hospital began seeing veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who were seeking mental-health services, Perry said. “It’s never overwhelmed us, but it’s something long-term we’ve had to plan for and keep up with,” he said. The new outpatient building will have two rooms for group meetings. The hospital plans to increase sessions for veterans and for families and couples, said Thomas Williams, a licensed clinical social worker who is the section chief of the chemical-dependency treatment program.
“The veterans from Iraq have more concerns with families and children,” because they are relatively young, Williams said.