Tomah VA cuts ribbon for new mental health treatment building

The Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center's focus on mental health for veterans received another boost Wednesday.
The ribbon was cut for Tomah VA's new Mental Health Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Program, building 405, on the campus. The concept for the facility was first discussed in 2009. But the facility's increased emphasis on whole health was  the motivating factor for the new program.
"We know that the Tomah VA is going to specialize in mental health conditions, primary care, long-term care then that's what we need to focus on," said acting VISN 12 director Victoria Brahm. "Instead of building other kinds of buildings, we'll never be an ICU, we're never going to build an OR, we're never going to building a big emergency room. We need to take our resources and build places like this."
Army veteran Samuel Hipp knows firsthand how treatment can be life changing. Hipp joined the treatment program in 2018
Veterans receive help for substance abuse, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) sexual trauma, and psychosocial issues. Hipp got involved in treatment due to prior substance abuse.
"It honestly saved my life," said Hipp. "No one thinks anything of it until about maybe nine months later and you're still on the same post-deployment party mode, then it starts to get noticed. By that point I learned to kind of hide it," he said.
Hipp now works at the VA in Peer Support Services for outpatient mental health.
Hipp hopes the new facility can help more veterans the similar to his experience.
"It's not so such much the quantity of people we can have at a given time but the fact that we can take more people in quicker and reduce a waiting list," Hipp said. "Some people will make the decision very quickly. I need help," said Hipp.
The new facility will increase the capacity of veterans able to get help, with 20 to 30 more beds being added for the six and nine week programs.
Before the center opened, at any given time there would be around 40 to 50 veterans on a wait list for the program.
"Given an extended amount of time, they may choose a different option to deal with stuff or may change their mind," Hipp said.
The average length of stay in the residential treatment program is 65 days.

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