Officials in Denton Friday marked the opening of a new Veterans Affairs clinic, which will treat military veterans for PTSD and other behavioral health issues.
The clinic is the result of a partnership between the VA and community leaders, including the Denton County Veterans Council, which helped secure the property.
Leaders held a ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the opening of the clinic, which is expected to nearly double the capacity for local treatment for Denton area veterans.
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Standing in the crowd outside the VA clinic was Kevin Sample. The Navy vet knew he belonged there.
"They will understand what you're going through," he said of the support team which is employed at the facility. For Sample, there was a time – not long ago – when he didn't know where he belonged.
"I didn't know what was wrong," he said. "I felt like the walls were closing in. I just didn't want to breathe some days."
Sample benefited from VA treatment, but in Denton, the only previous facility was a small one. Denton County has a veteran population of about 48,000 people. Some vets had to travel to Dallas or beyond to get the mental health care they needed.
The new clinic will employ psychologists, psychiatrists and therapists, helping veterans cope with PTSD and other issues. Officials say what they deal with is unique.
"What people experience, what they see, all the stresses," said Dr. Stephen Long, director of the Dallas VA. "It takes a tremendous toll."
When it comes to treating those unique issues, the VA says space and staffing are two big hurdles. The VA operates the new center, but the location was funded through private contributions.
"Having a new location allows us to expand our services to the point where we're almost able to double services," said Dr. Jennifer Adams, VA clinic director in Denton.
For providers, the biggest concern is veteran suicide. An average of 22 military veterans, active duty troops and reservists commit suicide each day in the United States, according to VA statistics. Denton city council member John Ryan relayed an emotional story about his own brother-in-law, a veteran who took his own life eight years ago.
"If we can prevent one more family from going through that, it's worth it," he said.
"War is hell," said Sample. "To see things and experience things and carry that burden around, it's hard."
Sample knows the difficulty. He was once homeless. Now, he assists other veterans – in getting to a place where they feel like they belong.
"It's gonna help so much," he said.