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Treatment center for military women needs men to up numbers

Aug. 5, 2013 - 08:51AM   |  
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WILLINGBORO, N.J. — An in-patient hospital program for female active military or veterans with emotional disorders or addiction has been expanded to include men.

Despite an aggressive marketing campaign to attract them, a shortage of women has led administrators at Lady of Lourdes Medical Center of Burlington County to open the Living Springs behavioral program to active-duty males or veterans.

Alexander J. Hatala, Lourdes Health System president and CEO, said the newly opened program has been modified to treat men and women in the 21-bed Willingboro unit. The first male was admitted last week.

“When we originally designed Living Springs, our intention was to create a comfortable, safe environment where servicewomen or the female family members of servicemen could relate to each other during the recovery process,” Hatala said.

He said since the program was launched in December, the hospital discovered a number of impediments for women to step forward and seek care, despite the need for behavioral health services geared toward them.

Joanne Gianndrea, Lourdes’ vice president for military affairs, said one problem is the reluctance of women to enter an in-patient program, especially if they have children or are caregivers for someone else.

Another obstacle is locating potential patients.

“Like any business and no matter what the gender, people are not always fully aware of their benefits ... or that the program exists,” said medical spokeswoman Carol Lynn Daly. “This is a very specific population that is widely diffused throughout the East Coast, which is our target area.”

The unit has been maintaining an average of five patients at a time and has enrolled 35 in the last eight months.

One of the challenges current military members face is the difficulty of re-integration upon returning home from deployment in a combat zone. Living Springs addresses disorders such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, alcohol and substance abuse, emotional trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Gianndrea said the first six months of the program were an important learning period for the medical center. To maintain the integrity of the program and expand it, the unit was opened to men. Men and women will receive different treatments and will be housed in separate sections.

All patients are offered a comprehensive program that includes individual counseling and group therapy by gender. Patients also have access to holistic treatment approaches, such as pet and recreation therapy. Dining facilities and relaxation areas are co-ed.

The program receives no government funding. The medical center accepts most insurance, including TriCare, the federal insurance for military veterans.

Active-duty military personnel must be referred to the program by a medical program care manager.

“The expansion of the program allows us to include all service personnel (and) to help them receive the care they deserve,” Hatala said.

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