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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE Charity Tisdale (right), assistant chief of environmental management services for Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks in Fayetteville, leads a tour Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, of a dayroom after a dedication ceremony for the Leroy Pond Residential Treatment Facility in Fayetteville. The facility offers 20 beds 20-beds and inpatient care for veterans who are facing substance abuse and co-occurring mental illness and homelessness. - Photo by Andy Shupe

FAYETTEVILLE -- A 20-bed residential treatment facility for veterans with substance abuse, severe post-traumatic stress and other behavioral problems opened Tuesday on the anniversary of the day that sent many of them into harm's way.

The Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks chose Sept. 11 as the day to celebrate the Leroy Pond Mental Health Residential Program for a reason, said Kelvin Parks, interim system administrator. Many of the veterans the center will treat are those who served in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"They answered that call. Now we will answer their call," Parks said at the ceremony held in front of the new center. The area not only has rooms for treatment, but a kitchen where patients can cook on their own and, if need be, learn to cook on their own.

The facility also will have meeting rooms where patients can visit with friends and family -- a major boost to success in treatment, according to system administrators and veterans interviewed at Tuesday's event. About 70 people attended the ceremony.

The closest center providing 24-hour treatment for up to 90 days is in Little Rock, 200 miles away, before the Fayetteville facility opened, system spokeswoman Wanda Shull said. Where veterans in need of care went often depended on which Department of Veterans Affairs facility had a bed available. In a few cases, local veterans were sent as far away as Oregon, Shull said. Usual destinations were in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, she said.

Army veteran Aaron L. Decelle said when he needed care five years ago, the VA treated him in Fayetteville and then put him on a bus each day to Springdale. He spent afternoons and nights at Decision Point, a private treatment facility there, he said.

Decelle is now a coordinator for Veterans Treatment Court Judge Cristi Beaumont of the 4th Judicial District, which consists of Washington and Madison counties. The court was set up to deal with minor offenses by veterans whose service contributed in some way to their behavior.

"The people they have working here are providers who are absolutely dedicated," Decelle said of the new facility's staff.

The 20-bed facility is at the northwest end of the Fayetteville campus of the health care system's main hospital and clinics. The proximity is a boon for veterans also, Decelle said, because those needing the center's care frequently have other health issues.

Jim McGuire of Springdale is an Army veteran who attended Tuesday's ceremony. "It's wonderful," he said of the new center. "A lot of those men who will be treated here are hooked on the prescriptions given to them after their service."

Plans for the 22,352-square-foot center with an estimated cost of $9.9 million were announced in late 2016. The building stands on a portion of the grounds of the former Leroy Pond Army Reserve Center.

Leroy Pond was a lieutenant colonel in World War II, a resident of Fayetteville and graduate of the University of Arkansas. He first became an officer in the ROTC at the university. Pond commanded a unit in the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. By the time of his death at age 27 in early 1945 he was highly decorated, with awards including the Distinguished Service Cross with two oak leaf clusters and the Silver Star medal. His regimental commander, Col. Raymond Bell, said at the time of Pond's death: "He had become a legend in the 1st battalion of my regiment" for his effectiveness and bravery in combat.

NW News on 09/12/2018

Print Headline: Fayetteville in-patient center to help vets

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