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San Diego Treatment Center To Assist Iraq/Afghan Veterans

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February 18, 2014 1:22 p.m.


Debbie Dominick, Aspire Center Director

Kristopher Warren, Social Services, Assistant, Aspire Center

Related Story: San Diego Treatment Center To Assist Iraq/Afghan Veterans


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Our top story on Midday Edition, the new center for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan is now open in San Diego. The residential treatment facility can house forty veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder or the effects of genetic paint brain injury. It is because the first facility of its time in the nation, but it's location causes concerned amongst neighborhood residents was the plant. Joining us to talk more about this aspire center art Debbie Dominick and Kristopher Warren. Debbie, there are hundreds of thousands of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, who have suffered from PTSD or brain injuries, which specific kind of patient is right for treatment aspire?

DEBBIE DOMINICK: Is great question, we have many focuses, one in particular is to prevent a veteran from ever being homeless, if we have a veteran who is resenting to us and telling us that they are homeless and experiencing symptoms of poster medic stress disorder or having managers, that is who are looking for.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Is this for someone who has been unsuccessful in other trim and program programs?

DEBBIE DOMINICK: Especially in yes especially in a outpatient basis.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH:A call and you are looking for people who are presently homeless or experiencing homelessness?

DEBBIE DOMINICK: All of the above.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How is this different from what you can get at a different Clinic?

DEBBIE DOMINICK: We're focusing on veterans and particular, while there are facilities that had all all veterans in particular, we are focusing on OIF veterans, these men and women who have been at war for twelve years, and we're finding that it is not uncommon for people to be discharged to homelessness after they leave the military, we want to be to stop there, we want them to not continue on that homelessness.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Give us a little bit more about the need for treatment of this kind, what are you seeing in veterans who are being discharge after servicing Iraq and Afghanistan that makes this type of system facility very important?

DEBBIE DOMINICK: We're seeing that people are not quite sure where to go, they have had multiple deployments and they have quite frankly been many times our service members are entering the military at 17 to 18 years old and this may be the first time after they leave the service that they live independently, and many times they are returning home to a spouse who is no longer there, workplace that has been taken with the editors left, they don't know how to deal with families or issue this off during combat, and their dispute aging, sometimes self-medicating and using medication for pain in an incorrect way or using alcohol to mask the pain, they are experiencing, it's not just physical and psychological pain as well.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: When it comes to substance abuse it's my understanding that this is not a substance abuse rehab is that right?

DEBBIE DOMINICK: That's right, we provide the services in La Jolla, it's not uncommon for a mental health diagnosis to go hand-in-hand with a substance abuse issue, but morbidity is very common.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Kristopher you have firsthand experience in dealing with PTSD, how did you know that you needed help?

KRISTOPHER WARREN: It was not till later on after a discharge for the military that I started experiencing symptoms of PTSD, my group of Marines that we went to war with was pretty much the first wave in the OIF and OEF, and when we returned the symptoms of PTSD was not as visible as it is now, looks the Marine Corps, and after I discharged in 2006 I started noticing detachment and feeling detached from loved ones and isolated, a sense of no purpose, it was not until 2009 when I went to the Department of veteran affairs form advice for my family members, that what I was feeling was signs of PTSD and that is when they took me by the hand and showed me this is what you are feeling, and this is probably the reason that you're feeling this way.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And where did you go?

KRISTOPHER WARREN: I went to the West Los Angeles program and at the time San Diego did not have anything similar to what they offer, so they offered somewhat similar to what the aspire center is going to offer, however the aspire center is a little more cutting edge for the program that I went to, but is still going to offer similar pretreatment.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let may ask, what is the benefit of having all veterans there experiencing the most recent American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan rather than more diversion spread of veterans from various wars and various ages?

KRISTOPHER WARREN: I think the veterans that will be together from operation enduring freedom and Iraqi freedom, we all share the similar combat experiences, we were in the same age group pretty much and we can relate with the stories are talked about, we can identify with each other some of the scenarios that happened in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we can bond together, however for evidence veterans from Vietnam and so forth, we still have a relationship with them, but this new era may have a similar bond which is going to hold us together.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And from a therapeutic standpoint what is the benefit of having all of these men and women be veterans from very similar wars?

DEBBIE DOMINICK: Great question, very similar to what Kris is saying, I would echo his comment, in addition to that the feedback that we have received over the years from this younger cohort of veterans, they like being with each other, the performing for being in that cohort of they have quite honestly told us that sometimes they are afraid they are looking at someone thirty euros older than them that perhaps if he did not get well, he is sitting here with me then perhaps I will never get well.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I see, in other words it is a support system and this is a new way to get well. Tell us a little bit more about the programs that you actually offer at aspire center, what types of treatments are available?

DEBBIE DOMINICK: Another great question, because Burger King with the younger cohort we are cognizant of of what they're used to, we have put a platform together like a college clatter rock catalog where you have core curriculum and electives, core curriculum the best of what you're presenting diagnosis is, if you are coming to us with PTSD or depression, we would focus on those areas as her core, they would bring the rest of the multi-disciplinary team and in and we have our own therapist and chaplaincy, and social workers if you are having psychosocial issues, or if you don't know how to manage your money, we bring all that together and the veteran is the nucleus, we circle around the veteran to make sure we're providing all of the needs, and turns of specific therapies we have behavioral therapy and prolonged exposure cognitive processing therapies, and individual one-on-one therapies in addition to group therapy.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And how long does this culinary veterans expected to stay at the center?

DEBBIE DOMINICK: We average on sixty to 220. That is very individual.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: At that point you expect the veteran that has been struggling to be of leave the center and you provide any other ongoing support?

DEBBIE DOMINICK: Yes, all those things, essentially we're starting bully called discharge planning from the date of admission, we meet with the veteran if I do what their goals are, and we can also work with family reconciliation because oftentimes as Kris mentions, there is a disconnect between the veteran and the family, so we want to bring all of that together to, whatever that discharge looks like for the individual veteran, that is what we're all gearing toward, so that is something of a male and apartment when we're engaging with my family, I can do that and there are support for me outside for patient care.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Kristopher you work as a social services assistant at aspire, how are you helping veterans?

KRISTOPHER WARREN: When I get there I'm going to basically basically be a role model for them, I will have clinicians that I will help a lot everyday needs, whether it's clothing or food, basically taking in anything that they have the offer and I will be there to help them and guide them, and show them that it can be done and just be a support for better and for them.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Where are these veterans coming from? From here in San Diego?

DEBBIE DOMINICK: Yes, our local and area. Because of this was from across the country? Speak to other VA's can refer to us but we are looking at better than our own area right now.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How does a veteran get into this program?

DEBBIE DOMINICK: They see the provider at the VA, it has to be someone at eligible for care at the VA and then they meet with the provider, and determined between the two of them if they meet the criteria, and that since the sense to our team, and interview occurs between us the providers at the aspire center and the veteran, it's a voluntary program it is important that the person and admitting understands that.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let me ask you a question about the facility itself, in a couple of years while this is under construction, the concept was being floated, there were a lot of problems within the neighborhood and people do not necessarily want this facility, built in this neighborhood in old town, what is your relationship with the community like now?

DEBBIE DOMINICK: Very open, communicative, we meet monthly. We haven't neighborhood advisory committee, we have open to medication and we are available via email, phone, in person.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So it is an ongoing and I heard that committees are more likely now? The Christian Christopher since you dealt with the symptoms of PTSD and he went and got treated for it, by question to you is, is PTSD eight edition that can be completely cured?

KRISTOPHER WARREN: I don't think he can be completely cured but it can be, I would like to say that you can't control it, once you start to record guys and be able to battle manage your moods and thoughts, it can be very well treatable, and I think it will always be with you because that is a part of your life that will never go away, but I think what affects veteran so much is that it's like being reborn again, all of the sudden you see all of the signs and symptoms and you never experienced it before, see have to get it customs to these new feelings and these new emotions, and without help and somebody showing you that this is normal this is how you work through it, so on and so forth, you become accustomed to it and learn how to deal with it, is it hard sometimes, of horse. But it's just recognizing that this is a part of your life now, and some parts of it you always have, and some of it is manageable.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And is this part of the veterans Veterans Administration? Realizing that PTSD is not simply going to be with veterans, but is going to be with all of us and with people who truck provide treatment for years to come, does this facility stand for something like this?

DEBBIE DOMINICK: Yes, ask absolutely at you bring up a very good point, PTSD does not just affect, veterans, it affects all of us, so anyone of us at any time that the core a poster medics at this disorder is people feeling like they're going to die, that their life is going to end, one of the key composure components, that could happen when I'm walking to my car, and one of the things that is really really important in our country, is that we pay attention to the stigma of any kind of mental health technician, diagnosis, think there's something wrong with that person, or you see someone take insulin because of their diabetes, you never think that. We need to as a society made a bigger push towards understanding mental health disorders are very treatable.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I wonder as these facilities around and we see more aspire centers pop-up, if one of the goals might be to educate the public more.

DEBBIE DOMINICK: It is, absolutely.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Do you have any plans do that?

DEBBIE DOMINICK: We have an ongoing dialogue with the community and presenting with different diagnosis mean and petty come to that diagnosis of what is all about.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Will you have any sort of a ceremony when people leave, I imagine your first class so to speak Southern way right now.

DEBBIE DOMINICK: We actually will have a graduation, we are very much looking for to that celebration.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay, let me tell everyone I've been speaking with Debbie Dominick and Kristopher Warren, who works at the new aspire center, thank you both very much.