VA Cuts Substance Abuse Treatment for Veterans

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (AP) — The VA medical center in Murfreesboro has suspended housing for veterans seeking substance abuse treatment after officials said they don’t have staff to oversee the patients 24 hours a day.
Chris Conklin, a spokesman for the Alvin C. York campus, said after reviewing the supervision at the lodging area, VA leadership including Tennessee Valley Healthcare Systems Director Juan A. Morales decided to put the housing on hold Jan. 31.
“Leadership thought it was appropriate to suspend the boarding program until the issue regarding 24-hour supervision could be resolved,” Conklin said.
Conklin told The Daily News Journal that last year more than 1,600 patients participated in the 28-day program and about 400 annually used the lodging on the campus (
Conklin said there were no safety incidents reported in the housing. The treatment program will continue and those veterans needing housing will have to find it through the VA’s social work program, Conklin said.
“The substance abuse treatment program has always been an outpatient program,” Conklin said.
Bill Mitchell, a retired VA substance abuse counselor, sent a letter to U.S. Rep. Diane Black, who represents Murfreesboro, stating his concerns about the housing suspension. He told the newspaper that a majority of veterans who are treated for substance abuse are homeless and enrollment in the program dropped to just four people when housing was stopped.
“To me, there was a real need for this program because it addressed the substance abuse issue and the homeless piece,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell said in the past a recent graduate of the substance abuse program would be paid a small stipend to oversee the housing and it was renovated two years ago to add more beds, including some for women.

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