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VA opens new mental health facility

By Rachel Lippmann, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – Officials with the Veterans Administration in St. Louis say a new centralized mental health facility will help remove the stigma associated with treatment for mental illness.

The Hope Recovery Center combines treatment programs previously located at the region's two VA medical centers into a new community-based location.

"Quite often with mental illness, you often feel broken, and when you're in a hospital setting you feel broken. Well, this center is very, very different," said Kate Lewis, the center's manager.

Morris Cox, the commander of the American Legion District 10 in St. Louis County, says some veterans come out of the military without any idea of the benefits available to them.

"We need a more public image to let the public know that if they neighbor knows that you are a veteran and you are having problems, he can say something, or he can refer them to somebody," Cox said, adding that he hopes the center provides transportation, since many veterans do not have cars.

Lewis says Hope Center employees can help recently-returned veterans find the appropriate treatment, but the Recovery Center is meant for those with longer-term illnesses like schizophrenia.

A review of federal drug use surveys done between 2004 and 2006 found that 1.8 million veterans a year suffered serious psychological distress in that period The numbers were higher among veterans who had just returned from Iraq or Afghanistan.