Wednesday, July 18, 2018
Military News

Need is now for new mental health center at Bay Pines, veterans say

ST. PETERSBURG — Veteran Ellsworth "Tony" Williams says the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System's new mental health center will help fill an immediate need.

"In the past six months, I know of six veterans in Hillsborough County who committed suicide," said Williams, 55, who served in the Army and is president of Veterans Counseling Veterans, a non-profit group helping struggling vets. "Having this kind of one-stop shopping, in a nice place, will help eliminate the stigma of seeking help."

Williams was one of more than 100 veterans attending the opening of the new 155,000-square-foot center Friday morning, along with Miguel LaPuz, the VA's acting principal deputy undersecretary for health, staff from both Bay Pines and the James A. Haley VA Hospital in Tampa, and elected leaders such as U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg.

Williams' sentiments go to the heart of the center's mission, said Alfonso F. Carreno, chief of mental health and behavioral science services at Bay Pines.

"We now have most of our mental health programs in one building," Carreno said.

This helps make the services more efficient and improves communications, he said. It is adjacent to the hospital, making it more convenient and less stigma-inducing. And it makes it easier for patients and potential patients.

"They don't have to go to seven different buildings," he said. "They don't have to navigate the campus, because now all these services are in one place."

Bay Pines director Suzanne Klinker said the new center answers a growing demand.

Out of the 108,000 patients the hospital system sees every year, 22,000 seek mental and behavioral health services.

Across the nation, Carreno said, 1 million people attempt suicide every year. More than 110, including 20 veterans, kill themselves every day.

Construction on the four-story building, about the size of a Walmart Super Center, began in March 2014 and cost nearly $92 million.

The new center increases the number of residential patient beds from 50 to 60 and the number of acute in-patient beds from 33 to 40, Carreno said.

Ramon McCool, 63, a retired Marine master sergeant from Seminole, said he would recommend friends struggling with mental issues to seek help at the new center.

"There are too many veterans and their families who don't know where to go," said McCool. "This center shows that the VA has a commitment to helping veterans seek mental health."

Contact Howard Altman at [email protected] or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman

Comments
Fitness app Polar revealed not only where U.S. military personnel worked, but where they lived

Fitness app Polar revealed not only where U.S. military personnel worked, but where they lived

Less than seven months ago, a group of journalists and Internet sleuths reported that the fitness-tracking application Strava was revealing highly sensitive information about U.S. military personnel around the world, including in Iraq and Syria. The ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Iraqi interpreter who risked life helping U.S. troops fights for citizenship

Iraqi interpreter who risked life helping U.S. troops fights for citizenship

Haeder Alanbki, an Iraqi living in Orlando, applied to become a U.S. citizen in 2016. Given his years as an interpreter for U.S. forces in Iraq, he thought it would be a simple formality. But in a lawsuit he filed last month against the government, ...
Published: 07/16/18
The Air Force’s $10,000 toilet cover

The Air Force’s $10,000 toilet cover

To the Air Force, it’s a "cover-center wall, troop compartment latrine ... required to protect the aircraft from corrosion damage in the latrine area."To the rest of us, it’s a toilet cover. And until recently, it had a price tag of $10,000.Officials...
Published: 07/15/18
Veterans to break ground on Sun City Center memorial

Veterans to break ground on Sun City Center memorial

SUN CITY CENTER — Residents in this retirement community will celebrate the construction of a Veterans Memorial with a groundbreaking ceremony at 10 a.m. on July 17.The memorial will mark the first such tribute to the thousands of veterans who have l...
Published: 07/10/18
Updated: 07/13/18
Were veterans’ radiology tests wrongly canceled? VA includes Haley in national audit

Were veterans’ radiology tests wrongly canceled? VA includes Haley in national audit

TAMPA — Federal investigators are looking into allegations that officials at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital canceled hundreds of patient radiology exams without following safety guidelines and then tried to cover it up.The exams had been order...
Published: 07/09/18
Howard Altman: Hillsborough joins new national military suicide prevention effort

Howard Altman: Hillsborough joins new national military suicide prevention effort

Florida veterans have a significantly higher rate of taking their own lives compared to the national veteran suicide rate, according to the most recent data released by the Department of Veterans Affairs.But in Hillsborough County, that figure is far...
Published: 07/06/18
Trump’s counterterrorism pick is Joe Maguire of Tampa, now helping commando families

Trump’s counterterrorism pick is Joe Maguire of Tampa, now helping commando families

TAMPA — The intelligence leader who keeps tabs on terrorist threats and communicates them to the nation will be a retired vice admiral from Tampa, if President Donald Trump has his way.For the past five years, former Navy SEAL Joe Maguire has served ...
Published: 07/03/18
Updated: 07/04/18
Art2Action, The Bunker team to give veterans ‘Open Mic Night’

Art2Action, The Bunker team to give veterans ‘Open Mic Night’

YBOR CITY — With umbrellas piled in the corner as you walked into The Bunker, welcoming vibes mixed with the sweet aroma of coffee, hints of just-baked muffins and cookies, and a few kind hellos from the staff.The seats, plush and cushioned, are pull...
Published: 06/28/18
Updated: 07/04/18
New chief calls MacDill ‘crown jewel’ of Air Force’s mobility command

New chief calls MacDill ‘crown jewel’ of Air Force’s mobility command

TAMPA — Air Force Col. Stephen Snelson, the new leader of the host command at MacDill Air Force Base, called his new assignment a career pinnacle as he took over the 6th Air Mobility Wing at a ceremony Friday."MacDill Air Force Base is the crown jewe...
Updated one month ago
Howard Altman: Three Tampa firms win rights to bid on $2.4 billion Army contract

Howard Altman: Three Tampa firms win rights to bid on $2.4 billion Army contract

In a move that could mean more high-paying defense contracting jobs for the Tampa area, three local firms have been awarded the rights to bid on work through a $2.4 billion Army contract.Calhoun International and a combined effort by two other Tampa ...
Updated one month ago