- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 7, 2015

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The Veterans Affairs Department is building an extended-stay mental health facility in Cheyenne so Wyoming veterans can get care closer to home.

Work on the 10-bed, $6.75 million facility is underway and is expected to be finished by the spring of 2016, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reported Tuesday (http://tinyurl.com/op83ard).

The veterans hospital in Cheyenne currently provides outpatient mental health care and outreach services. Patients who need more intensive, long-term care have to go to Denver or elsewhere.

The new facility will offer that care in Cheyenne, closer to veterans’ families.

“The treatment is a very difficult, highly individualized process,” said Brian Daskivich, acting chief of mental health services at the Cheyenne VA Medical Center. “So, just like anybody in a time of challenge, being able to access your support system and being able to speak with them and have a face-to-face conversation can go a lot further than just a telephone contact.”

VA officials expect to hire at least 26 additional staff members for the facility, but the exact number hasn’t been determined yet.

Finding staff has been a challenge for the VA health care system, and the shortage can be worse in less-populous states such as Wyoming.

“However, our experience here in mental health is we typically have lot of applicants interested in available positions,” Daskivich said. “So I’m very optimistic.”

The facility will have private rooms, communal living areas, a kitchen and a laundry area.

Daskivich said patients will likely stay at the facility for several weeks. Unlike some in-patient centers, patients at the new veterans clinic will be free to come and go, he said.

The Cheyenne facility will improve mental health care options for Wyoming veterans, said Chad Werner, a spokesman for a Green River nonprofit called Southwest Wyoming Recovery Access Programs.

“It is definitely going to strengthen what we do, because instead of referring them out of state, we can connect them to a local entity,” he said. “And part of the recovery process is not just focusing on the patient, but also the family.”

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Information from: Wyoming Tribune Eagle, http://www.wyomingnews.com

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