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Post-traumatic stress program receives national recognition

Watertown Daily Times - 11/27/2018

Nov. 27--ALEXANDRIA BAY -- Without a hospital on post and limited local resources, Fort Drum soldiers struggling with post-traumatic stress had to be transferred to other states for the treatment they needed.

To combat this, River Hospital in 2013 created the River Community Wellness Program, which offers combat- and non-combat-related trauma care. By 2016, the program expanded to include veterans in the services, along with creating outpatient services. The available services are cognitive processing therapy, group and individual therapy, peer-to-peer support, creative arts therapy and imaginal therapy, as well as psychiatry and medication management.

These services are offered through four different programs: adult outpatient, child and adolescent program, partial hospitalization program to active duty soldiers diagnosed with post-traumatic stress and an intensive outpatient program for veterans with post-traumatic stress.

For the program's innovation in the integration of behavioral health initiatives, it recently received recognition by the National Rural Health Resource Center -- one of four critical access hospitals. River Hospital is the only civilian hospital nationally offering this level of mental health treatment to active-duty soldiers, making the program stand out when compared to competing hospitals. In addition, the recognition publicizes the successful strategies developed by rural health care providers and their potential for use elsewhere.

CEO Ben Moore III said as a veteran himself, he understood the importance of meeting this demand in the north country.

"Through the River Community Wellness Program, we provide four distinct behavioral health programs to our community," Mr. Moore said. "With each of these necessary programs, River Hospital is able to promote wellness, assure access to all patients needing care and operate under the highest standards for quality with the most efficient use of resources possible."

Brad D. Frey, a veteran and director of the program, said the treatment offered is five days per week, five hours per day, for eight weeks, qualifying it as intensive. Anything beyond this, Mr. Frey said, would be inpatient hospitalization. Most of the treatment is done in a group setting, but soldiers are pulled out a few times per week for individual therapy sessions and once per week for medication management.

The group sizes range from six to 10 soldiers, Mr. Frey said. The combat-related trauma group is a rolling admission, meaning a soldier can join any time. With non-combat-related trauma, the program doesn't start until soldiers receive eight to 10 referrals so they can start and end the program together.

Receiving the award was an honor for Mr. Frey, who said it is a national reminder that the program is the right thing to be doing. Without its staff, though, Mr. Frey said, the program wouldn't be as successful.

"For the staff who listen to stories that soldiers have endured, listen to the worst imaginable scenarios, and then keep coming back to work every day, this is really a credit to them and the work they do," he said.

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(c)2018 Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, N.Y.)

Visit Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, N.Y.) at www.watertowndailytimes.com

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