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VA, North Shore-LIJ Join Forces To Open First-of-its-Kind Behavioral Health Center For Returning Vets & Families

New Bay Shore, NY, facility to treat psychological wounds of military families, smooth the transition home for vets struggling with PTSD and other issues

BAY SHORE, N.Y., Dec. 4, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Representatives from the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the North Shore-LIJ Health System and local veterans today celebrated the opening of the Unified Behavioral Health Center for Military Veterans and Their Families, a first-of-its-kind facility designed to help military families cope with the emotional burdens veterans frequently face after returning home from combat.

The health center, located at 132 E. Main St., in Bay Shore, NY, was developed as part of a collaboration between the Northport VA Medical Center and North Shore-LIJ. What makes this progressive new facility unique is that the VA and an outside hospital system are working together to offer treatment for both veterans and family members under one roof. The facility consists of two divisions: a North Shore-LIJ psychiatrist and other behavioral health staff will care for veterans' families, and VA staff will provide both mental health and primary care services for the veterans.  The divisions are connected through a shared conference room, where clinicians from both organizations can work together to achieve the best outcomes for veterans and their families.

"This is patient-centered care at its best -- where the public and private sector join forces to treat the whole person," Robert A. Petzel, MD, the VA's Under Secretary for Health, who oversees the healthcare needs of millions of veterans, said at Tuesday's ceremony commemorating the new center. "We're not here to just treat post traumatic stress disorder, or depression, or substance abuse.  We're here to treat complex human beings.  And bringing their families into the treatment equation is something we should have started doing years ago.  It's long overdue."

The opening of the Bay Shore center was made possible by a more than $1 million donation by Frank and Mildred Feinberg of Locust Valley, NY, a $300,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson (RWJ) Foundation and funds contributed by the following organizations and individuals to match the RWJ grant: the Fay J. Lindner Foundation, the Randi and Mark Jacobson Foundation, the Martin B. Greenberg Foundation, the Jack and Dorothy Kupferberg Family Foundation, Berlin Family Foundation, and Andrew and Arlene Linder.

Long Island has a proud tradition of military services, with approximately 150,000 veterans in Nassau and Suffolk counties – the 10th largest veteran population in the country. Many of them live on Long Island's south shore. The new facility's location in Bay Shore was chosen to provide them with easier access to the services they need.

"America's veterans and those who love them have made extraordinary sacrifices on behalf of our country. As the New York area's largest healthcare provider, North Shore-LIJ recognizes its obligation to get military families the help they need for the psychological battles that they continue to fight," said Michael Dowling, North Shore-LIJ's president and chief executive officer. "We're honored to work with the VA and so many other people and organizations in the community who came together to create this progressive new facility."

The availability of behavioral health services for both military personnel and their families is especially important for returning veterans struggling to adjust to their "new normal" once they return home. Kenneth Storz, 53, of Massapequa, a 32-year US Army reservist – he retired with the rank of colonel – who was deployed to Operation Desert Storm in Kuwait in 1991-92 and to Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005-06, spoke at Tuesday's ceremony about how his military service continues to affect his family and him. He received counseling at North Shore-LIJ's Florence and Robert A. Rosen Family Wellness Center in Manhasset, NY, which has provided more than 8,000 behavioral health sessions to military and law enforcement personnel and their families since opening in 2006.

"We at the Northport VA Medical Center recognize that veterans and their loved ones are better served through collaborative efforts such as this one with North Shore LIJ," said Philip Moschitta, the Northport VA's director. "Our nation's heroes and their families deserve the best care, and that is what we will be providing them in this community based clinic."

To make an appointment with the Mildred and Frank Feinberg Division of the Unified Behavioral Health Center, call 631-647-2530.

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