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Veterans and first responders to get help on far North Side

Laurel Ridge building psychiatric facility for active-duty, former military, first responders

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Laurel Ridge Treatment Center is adding a $30 million psychiatric inpatient facility to help active-duty military, veterans and first responders.

Construction, started last April, is underway on an 80-bed space on Corporate Woods Drive, across from the main Loop 1604 campus.

The 61,618-square-foot, one-story building will be freestanding and an expansion of Laurel Ridge’s complex, which sits on 18 acres near Redland Road.

“The new facility will be dedicated to active-duty service members, veterans and first responders suffering from combat-related (post-traumatic stress disorder) and more,” said Dr. Jacob Cuellar, Laurel Ridge’s CEO. “We serve service members from across the country and from around the world.”

The building is expected to open next fall on 11 acres.

According to its website, Laurel Ridge opened its doors to provide specialized behavioral health care and addiction treatment in 1987. The original 250-bed facility was designed with one mission in mind: “Saving lives, healing families, creating hope.”

The grounds include a charter school, gymnasium, recreational facility, playgrounds, swimming pool, ROPES or Reality-Oriented Physical Experiential Situation Course, library and dining room.

With the 80-bed addition, the facility can accommodate up to 330 patients.

Pennsylvania-based Universal Health Services Inc. owns the far North Side center.

Military members can suffer from several mental-health conditions, say experts. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the primary ones are:

• PTSD — Traumatic events, such as combat, assault, disasters or sexual assault can have long-lasting negative effects such as trouble sleeping, anger, nightmares, being jumpy and alcohol and drug abuse. The rate of PTSD may be up to 15 times higher for active-duty service members compared to civilians.

• Depression — Interferes with daily life and normal functioning and may require treatment. The rate of depression may be up to five times higher in active-duty military compared to the general population.

• Traumatic brain injury, or TBI — Usually the result of a significant blow to the head or body, symptoms can include headaches, fatigue or drowsiness, memory problems and mood changes and mood swings.

Since its debut three decades ago, Laurel Ridge has helped civilian and military patients.

“We saw a couple of years ago the need to expand our capacity to serve the growing need for behavioral health treatment for military personnel,” Cuellar said.

Providing for service members past and present is vital, added Terry Buford, Laurel Ridge marketing director.

“The vision of the new addition came out of our understanding of the needs and trauma active-duty military are incurring. We are very in tune with the military and the needs of active-duty military,” Buford said. “Unfortunately, we’ve seen the need for behavioral-health and substance-abuse treatment grow for military personnel, resulting from combat duty in the Middle East and Afghanistan.”

According to Cuellar, once the addition is completed, Laurel Ridge will be the largest freestanding institution of its kind nationwide.

“For the military, our treatment goal is reintegration back into the military,” he added. At the same time, the nascent facility will free up beds in the main complex to treat more children and adults dealing with behavioral-health and drug-addiction issues, Cuellar added.

For more, visit www.laurelridgetc.com/programs/military-dependents/.

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