WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAU) – The Veterans Administration has hired three women providers and expanded mental health services in the year since it opened a larger community-based outreach clinic in Wausau.
The changes reflect the agency’s goal to accommodate a growing number of women veterans and more adequately treat veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues.
Key to the clinic’s expanded services is the completion of a $623,000 project that added a new elevator to the lower level, larger conference rooms and a waiting area for veterans. The project allows disabled veterans to easily move between the clinic’s two levels, freeing up precious conference space on the first floor that had been reserved for mental health therapy.
VA psychiatrists can now treat patients in Wausau without physically being present. Through a video connection known as tele-mental health, psychiatrists at clinics in Madison, Tomah or Chicago can evaluate how well a veteran is doing. The Wausau clinic has a local staff member who performs any in-person assessments.
“Veterans feel they can talk to someone much easier through a monitor versus face-to-face,” said Steve Janikowski, a mental health nurse.
Expanded mental health services are just one of the changes the VA has made at the clinic.
Recognizing that nearly one out of every seven veterans is a woman, the agency has hired three women providers.
“There’s a big push for more services,” said Sarah Parsch, an advanced practice nurse practitioner who specializes in treating women veterans. “It’s not just physical health or mental health anymore – it’s a holistic approach.”
The Wausau VA clinic recently won praise from agency officials for offering a more women-friendly environment.
“We appreciate gains in the number of providers at both the parent facility [in Tomah] and the community-based clinics who are providing comprehensive primary care to women and thus reducing the number of women veterans receiving their health care under a ‘split model’,” officials said.
Staff at the Wausau clinic are also complying with a recommendation to provide chaperones of both genders to veterans during patient exams.
“We try to make sure that their privacy is first in mind,” said nurse manager Kadie Sullivan.