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New mental health services for veterans, military families

By Staff | Nov 22, 2019

PHOTO PROVIDED

More than 100,000 veterans reside in Southwest Florida, yet many former service members across the state are lacking access to needed mental health services. Recently, a new collaboration aims to increase the availability of mental health services to area veterans and their families.

Home Base Southwest Florida, a Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Program, announced its expansion and clinical partnership with Lee Health to offer mental health services for Southwest Florida veterans and military families – at no cost. Gov. Ron DeSantis joined Lee Health and Home Base SWFL leadership for the press conference announcement on Nov. 11 at Lee Health.

“Florida is home to more than 1.5 million veterans, and it is our duty to ensure those who have served our country are receiving the care and support they deserve. As a fellow veteran who served in Iraq, I understand and appreciate the sacrifices made by our veterans, military members and their families. Many veterans are still fighting the invisible wounds of war and these new mental health services are critical to ensuring veterans in Southwest Florida can lead healthy lives,” DeSantis said.

Mental health services for the treatment of the invisible wounds of war, such as post-traumatic stress, transitional anxiety and depression, now will be available at the Lee Health Behavioral Health Clinic.

The program will offer a multidisciplinary approach to care and complement Home Base Southwest Florida’s Warrior Health & Fitness Program. Through the Warrior Health & Fitness Program, physical health goals like losing weight, gaining muscle, eating healthier, and managing pre-existing injuries and health issues are common, but the program also includes mental health and wellness goals.

Previously, those seeking clinical care could access mental health services through Home Base’s two-week intensive clinical program headquartered in Massachusetts. The services will now be available in their home community at Lee Health.

“Five years ago, Home Base Southwest Florida was created to help fill an important need for our veterans transitioning from military service and we are proud to expand our mission once again,” Home Base Southwest Florida Program Director and U.S. Marine veteran Armando Hernandez said. “This partnership with Lee Health will augment our ability to serve veterans in the area and ensure our veterans, impacted by the invisible wounds of war, receive access to timely and quality medical care.”

Eric Raab, a psychiatrist with Lee Health, will serve as clinical leader for the Home Base Southwest Outpatient Clinic at Lee Health. For the past year, he and designated members of Lee Health’s behavioral health clinical team have received clinical training in evidence-based therapies for PTSD by Home Base’s clinical experts from Massachusetts General Hospital’s Psychiatry Department.

“While most military service members and veterans who return from deployment can reintegrate successfully into civilian life, an estimated 1 in 3 may experience mental health problems, such as PTS, major depression, and anxiety,” Raab said. “We are taking a major step in bringing Home Base’s gold-standard care of treatment for the invisible wounds to Southwest Florida and encouraging local veterans to take that all-important first step in getting the vital care and services they need to begin the healing process.”

Lee Health clinicians will continue to participate in weekly phone consultations for the next six months to ensure the best care is delivered to area veterans and their adult family members and will continue to work in tandem with Home Base Southwest Florida staff to best serve each patient.

The care will be funded through the philanthropic support from the Wounded Warrior Project and donors from the Southwest Florida region supporting Home Base Southwest Florida signature events.

For more information, contact Home Base Southwest Florida’s Operation & Special Projects Manager Monique Hashimoto at homebaseswfl@partners.org or 239-338-8389, or visit www.homebase.org/SWFL.