Oklahoma City facility opens new military mental health unit
Oklahoma City — Oakwood Springs, a behavioral health facility that opened in Oklahoma City less than a year ago, will open a new unit focused on military members, veterans and first responders.
The 24-bed unit will open Wednesday, though members of the public who are curious can visit from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at Oakwood Springs, 13101 Memorial Ct. The “HOPE for Heroes” program is designed for people who have post-traumatic stress disorder, combat stress or other forms of trauma related to their service, said Alicia McAlpin, director of business development at Oakwood Springs. Veterans whose behavioral health needs aren't related to their service still can seek treatment in the units for the general population, she said.
Oakwood Springs, which is part of a chain of psychiatric hospitals owned by Springstone, a Kentucky-based company, opened about a year ago. The facility has room for 72 beds for inpatient mental health and addiction treatment, but the 24 beds in what will become the military unit haven't been used so far.
Having a separate unit is particularly important for first responders, who may not be comfortable around members of the public seeking addiction treatment, McAlpin said.
“If they arrested one of those individuals one or two weeks ago, they're not going to be able to do the same (mental) processing, to be vulnerable” in group therapy, she said.
Treatment specific to veterans
Veterans also tend to do better with therapy in a group of people who have similar experiences, said Denise Draper, director of clinical services at Oakwood Springs. People who haven't been through combat often don't know how to respond to a veteran's experiences, which can send the message that those experiences are shameful and should stay hidden, she said.
“Those kinds of trauma are very different from the trauma the general public is used to,” such as sexual abuse, she said.
Family members also may not understand their loved ones' trauma, so the unit will offer weekly classes about their loved ones' needs, communication and how to care for themselves, Draper said. A family support group will start once enough patients have graduated from the unit, she said.
Patients with service-related trauma will get some of the same therapies used on the other units, along with therapies that have been shown to work in military populations, Draper said. For example, many will receive cognitive processing therapy, which involves changing the “story” a person has built around trauma and finding strength in the experience, she said.
“There's nobody stronger than somebody who has survived a trauma,” she said.
Most patients receive psychotropic medications, Draper said. The facility typically doesn't use medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction, except for in the short term for easing withdrawal symptoms, she said. Medication-assisted treatment reduces the odds of relapse and overdose for people addicted to opioids.
Oakwood Springs accepts most private insurance and Tricare, and participates in the Department of Veterans Affairs Choice program, McAlpin said. It doesn't accept Medicaid. Costs would vary depending on a patient's length of stay, but a person without insurance could end up paying “a couple thousand,” she said.
Most patients will need outpatient care with other providers, Draper said. They also have access to computer-based therapy programs.
“We definitely don't pretend to be the be-all and end-all,” she said. “This is a step in the process.”