A new clinic that opens today in Addison will offer free counseling and mental health care for hundreds of Texas veterans who return from duty and struggle to transition back into civilian life.
The Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Metrocare is funded by the Cohen Veterans Network, a Stamford, Conn.-based foundation started by hedge fund billionaire Steven Cohen. Cohen’s son served in Afghanistan. Cohen has pledged $275 million to open 25 mental health clinics that focus on post-9/11 veterans and their families.
Clinics have already opened in New York City and San Antonio.
In its first year, the Dallas-area clinic expects to see about 800 people, MetroCare Services CEO Dr. John Burruss said. The clinic will be staffed and supervised by MetroCare, the largest provider of mental health care in North Texas.
Veterans and their families can come to the clinic for treatment or meet with counselors at home or a coffee shop. They can make evening and weekend appointments or go to one-day workshops with free child care. The clinic will also use telemedicine and may open satellite locations around North Texas if needed, Burruss said.
“You can never do too much for the people who served this country and their families,” he said.
Caseworkers, social workers, psychologists and a team of outreach coordinators will help with a wide range of challenges, from post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal thoughts to marital problems.
MetroCare and the Cohen Veterans Network chose the Addison location because it’s at the corner of four counties, Burruss said.
The Cohen Veterans Network will cover clinic expenses for three years. Burruss said the clinic will continue to cover costs by billing insured veterans and raising donations.
Dallas-Fort Worth has one of the densest veteran populations in the country, according to a report by the Center for New American Security, a Washington, D.C., think tank. Between 2001 and 2014, nearly 17,000 post-9/11 veterans sought inpatient or outpatient care for mental health counseling or treatment, according to the report.
Some veterans told researchers they had to wait six months for a second appointment and could not get help for their family members.
Anthony Hassan, a retired Air Force officer and executive director of the Cohen Veterans Network, said he’s determined to keep wait times down and to reach veterans before a crisis. At the Addison clinic, veterans will get an appointment within five days of their call or can make a same-day appointment if their need is urgent, he said.
“The goal is to get them through the door before they change their mind,” he said.
At mental health clinics, Hassan said, clinicians must often juggle busy schedules because of low insurance reimbursement rates. That can leave few openings for people who need same-day care. With funding from the private sector, he said, the Cohen Veterans Network clinics can have lower utilization rates and free up more time for visits.
“We are not driven by a revenue cycle,” he said. “We are driven by patient access.”
Veterans can receive mental health care in the VA system, but military families and veterans with a dishonorable discharge are ineligible. Some veterans may also prefer to go to a clinic that’s closer to their home or that’s focused on younger veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Burruss said.
At the Cohen Military Family Clinic, there will be no geographic bounds or economic qualifications. The clinic will be open to all veterans and those whom they consider family, including caretakers, neighbors or best friends, Burruss said.
The clinic has a special waiting room for veterans who may be sensitive to light or noise because of post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury. Staff can dim the lights or give patients headphones to listen to soothing music.
Jonathan Hill, outreach director, put together a team of two veterans and a veteran’s spouse who will reach out to veterans service organizations and encourage referrals. They will also connect veterans to outdoor therapies, such as equestrian and fishing groups.
For Hill, a 20-year Army veteran, the mission is personal. He’s read news stories about men and women who have committed suicide or gotten into trouble. He has friends who have struggled after their time in the military. He’s sought help himself.
Hill said he understands the importance of building trust and knows the comfort of meeting other veterans who have “walked the same walk.”
AT A GLANCE: Stephen A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Metrocare
The clinic offers free mental health care for veterans and their loved ones, including spouses, children, caretakers or anyone else they consider a close friend or family member.
It is located at 16160 Midway Road, Suite 218 in Addison. For more information, call 469-680-3500 or go to metrocareservices.org/mfc