The New Mexico VA Health Care System treated 2,461 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars for post traumatic stress syndrome between Oct. 1, 2001, and June 30, 2012.
None of them on an in-patient basis — unless they also had a substance-abuse problem.
So veterans who have sacrificed their safety for their country — like Albuquerque Rev. June Ramos, a U.S. Marine who survived three roadside bomb attacks in Iraq — must get treatment out of state. In Ramos’ case, at the Southern Arizona VA in Tucson.
For a state with three Air Force bases, an Army Missile Range, a robust National Guard and a storied history of military service, that’s a disservice.
Symptoms of PTSD, described by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as “an intense physical and emotional response to thoughts and reminders” of a traumatic event, include flashbacks, nightmares, avoidance, difficulty sleeping, irritability, outbursts of anger, lack of concentration, panic attacks, depression, suicidal thoughts, feelings of being estranged and isolated, and an inability to complete daily tasks.
Veterans who have come home to New Mexico deserve the treatment that will help them come home mentally and emotionally as well as physically. And if at all possible, they deserve to get it here.
Diane Castillo, the coordinator of the women’s trauma clinic at New Mexico VA, says “the good news is, we have these really, really powerful therapies that are very effective.” The bad news is in New Mexico, the only inpatient treatment program for PTSD is 24 beds for veterans who also have a substance-abuse issue and can commit to a three-to-four-month stay.
It is important to find out how many veterans have to leave New Mexico for PTSD inpatient care — and if the number warrants it, provide the treatment here.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.