Carson plans in-patient psych ward for acute treatment

January 22, 2011

Battling a rising tide of war-related mental illness in the ranks, Fort Carson next year will open an inpatient psychiatric ward on post.

The facility, planned for renovated space at Evans Army Community Hospital, will house as many as 15 patients for treatment of “acute” psychiatric symptoms, including suicidal thoughts.

It will not be designed for long-term care — those patients will continue to go to civilian facilities for such things as drug abuse and intensive PTSD treatments.

Fort Carson leaders say they need the new ward to keep better track of patients in crisis, allowing commanders, doctors and social workers to work together on the post while keeping soldiers connected with their units.

“It keeps their entire spectrum of care within the same system,” said Maj. Chris Ivany, the post’s top behavioral health officer.

The post averages about 30 soldiers on any given day who are being cared for at off-post facilities for substance abuse and mental illness. The post had a psychiatric ward until the late 1990s, when commanders decided it would be cheaper to send the few patients that used the facility in peacetime to civilian hospitals.

The inpatient programs are followed by intensive out-patient programs. When inpatient programs are again available on post, leaders expect the whole thing to be seamless.

“That’s what we want to be able to do is provide that care and provide a continuim of care,” said Col. Jimmie Keenan, who commands the post hospital.

Also, Army studies show that soldiers treated in military mental health facilities are more likely to be able to return to duty.

The psychiatric ward is a relatively small part of massive changes at Fort Carson’s hospital.

Over the past five years, Congress has committed to building new barracks for soldiers assigned to the hospital and new facilities for wounded soldiers in the post’s Warrior Transition Unit.

The post has opened a massive annex to the hospital that houses personnel such as dentists and social workers.

Earlier this month, the post held a groundbreaking for its behavioral health clinic, which will allow soldiers easier access to care. The hospital is getting a new administrative office building in addition to a remodel that will add inpatient rooms, including the psychiatric ward.

Other plans include an out-patient behavioral health clinic for children and spouses of soldiers, part of a program that’s already put Army social workers and mental health workers in schools on the military base.

Patterned on a program at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, it’s designed to help families through the troubles that accompany growing up in the military.

“The experience of being a spouse or a child in a military family is unique,” Ivany said.

The program, with a staff of 40, will offer such things as psychiatric care and family counseling.

“It allows us to tailor the treatment,” Ivany said.

Call the writer: 636-0240

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