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Lieutenant gov. praises the work of Cohen Clinic
State program looks to offer behavioral health help to veterans, service members, their families
Lt. Gov. Burt Jones
Lt. Gov. Burt Jones discussed the importance the state has put on mental health for veterans, service members and their families at the Cohen Military Family Clinic. Photo by Pat Donahue

The work of the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Aspire Health Partners just outside of the Fort Stewart main gate is drawing the attention — and help — of the state government.

Lt. Gov. Burt Jones visited the Hinesville clinic Wednesday morning, learning about the services the clinic provides.

“They’ve had a lot of successes and they are doing a lot of good work,” he said. “We’re happy to partner with them as a state.”

Lt. Gov. Jones, state Sen. Derek Mallow (D-Savannah) and Patricia Ross, commissioner of the state Department of Veterans Services, also met with clinic staff Wednesday morning for a roundtable discussion.

“This clinic is like no other,” said Aspire Health Partners CEO Babette Hankey. “We’re here to serve our community, our military families, our veterans, with no barriers.”

The state, through the Department of Veterans Services, has set up a grant program to bring more behavioral health help to veterans, service members and their families. The bill enacting the program, HB 414 and co-sponsored by Rep. Al Williams (D-Midway), was signed into law.

“This is a great model and it will spur opportunities for other entities,” Jones said.

The lieutenant governor also said the Cohen clinics sold lawmakers on their work during the past session, leading to the state investing money in mental health care for veterans, service members and their families.

“I have been duly impressed by the people working here and the feedback from not just the base commander but the people here, the important work they are doing here and the aid they are providing,” he said. “It is good to see an investment that is doing good work.”

The Cohen Clinic in Hinesville, one of nearly two dozen across the country founded by philanthropist Steven Cohen, has room for 10 clinicians. The clinicians on hand already have been busy, said Dr. Anthony Hassan, president and CEO of Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinics.

They initially projected having 5,000-6,000 sessions, Dr. Hassan said. Now, they expect to have 7,000-8,000 sessions at the end of the clinic’s first year. The Hinesville clinic has added a clinician to its original complement of mental health professionals.

“There is a huge unmet need in communities across the country,” Dr. Hassan said. “All Americans are struggling to get accessible high quality mental health care.”

Georgia is home to more than 760,000 veterans, and Jones said he would like to see the Cohen clinics expand to Columbus and Warner Robins, which are home to major installations — Fort Benning and Robins Air Force Base.

“This is an enduring challenge,” Dr. Hassan said. “Mr. Cohen can’t do this on his own. We’re looking for other folks to step up and join us. Our system just isn’t equipped to meet this demand especially with the shortage of mental health professionals we have in the country today.”

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