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PTSD clinic coming to Fort Stewart

POSTED: January 2, 2009 5:00 a.m.

In just a few months, soldiers suffering from the signs and symptoms of stress- and trauma-related injuries will be able to get the help they need at Fort Stewart.

At 2 p.m. today, medical officials at Fort Stewart’s Winn Army Community Hospital will take part in a ground-breaking ceremony for two clinics dedicated to the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries.

The 4,800-square-foot buildings will cost an estimated $1.42 million combined to build, and are scheduled to be completed by the summer of 2009. According to WAHC spokesperson Ann Erickson, they will feature “state-of-the-art” equipment that will provide doctors and therapists with the tools they need to treat soldiers quickly.

Maj. Christopher Warren, the chief of WAHC’s behavioral medicine clinic, said the facilities will be the post’s first official site totally dedicated to the treatment of the “hidden wounds” soldiers can sustain during combat.

A Rand Corp. study released in April indicated that nearly 20 percent of all military service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have reported symptoms of PTSD or major depression.

 “It is important that we identify the symptoms early and get high-quality intervention into place to get these soldiers the help that they need,” Warren said.

“So instead of the soldier having to go to five different locations, and having doctors reading each others’ notes, they will have the capability to discuss the case together and make one treatment plan that addresses all the issues in one facility.”

The demand for treating PTSD and traumatic brain injuries increases with more and more deployments, Warren said. Fort Stewart has been in need of such a facility for awhile.

“The 3rd Infantry Division has been the most deployed division since the start of the war,” he said. “We have a large number of soldiers going in and out of combat now, so they are at high risk. It’s important that we get them best quality of care out here for them.”

Once open, the facility will have onsite physical therapy available for the soldiers, complete with a gymnasium, an occupational therapy team and therapy suite. The suite will include a kitchen and a living environment.

Local resident Katal Yancey, 30, wishes such a facility was available while he was served at Fort Stewart.

 If it had been, he said he and his friends might have been able to get the help they needed to stay active.

“I served four years in the Army,” Yancey said. “I deployed to (Operation Iraqi Freedom) 1 in 2003. When I came back, I was diagnosed with PTSD, and a short time afterward, I was discharged from the Army.” 

Since then, Yancey said he has been able to get PTSD treatment through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

 But his friend, 24-year-old Sgt. Maun Hardy, a former Fort Stewart soldier, was not as lucky.

“He committed suicide last year (at Fort Benning),” Yancey said. “He was having problems, but he did not want to mess up his rank, so he didn’t speak on it (when he was stationed at Fort Stewart). He didn’t get the treatment he needed, so he ended up killing himself.”

Warren said the Army recognizes the need and has tried to dispel any myths and stigmas associated with psychological and neurological disorders acquired in combat.

“We want soldiers to know that it is the sign of strength, not weakness, to seek assistance when needed,” he said.

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