IVH Commandant speaks at statehouse

The Iowa Veterans Home Commandant will continue to pursue options for vets with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following a study he conducted last year.

In 2012, the Iowa Legislature enlisted IVH Commandant David Worley to study the feasibility of adding an inpatient program to the vets’ home here in Marshalltown.

His study complete, Worley presented his findings at the statehouse in Des Moines Wednesday.

According to the Senate filing that prompted the study, Worley was to initiate and coordinate the establishment of a post-traumatic stress dual diagnosis treatment program study. The study evaluated possible funding sources, program structure, program requirements and the needs for such a treatment program for veterans in Iowa.

Worley delivered the report to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Commission of Veterans Affairs, the Iowa Department of Public Health, the general assembly and Gov. Terry Branstad regarding the establishment of the program at the Iowa Veterans Home.

Worley said he will continue to be involved in PTSD treatment even though his study revealed that setting aside beds at the home for victims of PTSD is unnecessary.

“If a vet meets the criteria for admission, that means we are already currently treating them for PTSD and substance abuse,” he said.

Worley said it isn’t feasible to set aside 12 to 15 beds for inpatient care when the home is already treating vets who suffer from PTSD.

He said the real problem is providing more outpatient services for veterans returning from deployment, many of whom are in their late-20s. And since those not being treated at IVH likely live outside Marshalltown, there needs to be resources for those vets to avoid them having to uproot their lives for treatment.

Overall, Worley said the study was useful because it helps educate everyone involved as to what the needs are.

“We don’t want to put a stigma on vets with PTSD,” he said. “We don’t put a stigma on them because they have cancer [PTSD] is an illness.”

He called the study a “step in the right direction.”

Sen. Steve Sodders, D-State Center, said he too will continue to work on viable solutions, but disagrees with Worley’s assessment that IVH is not an ideal place for inpatient treatment.

“We have zero long-term care to help these guys and gals when they come back,” he said. “The vets’ home is the perfect location.”

He agreed that outpatient counseling for vets suffering from PTSD and substance abuse issues is essential. However, he said PTSD victims need to have a place where staff ensures they take their medications and are able to provide them with counseling in more than just bite-sized sessions.

Sodders said he realizes that funding and federal regulations are large hurdles to overcome.

He said the issue is a work in progress, but that he plans to make strides in this area soon.

“We have men and women coming back from overseas every day,” he said. “We don’t have five or 10 years.”

Sodders said he hopes local and state veteran groups step up to the plate and prompt government officials to earmark money for what he called an important issue.