Health care program for military, families is only 1 in state

Veterans, current service members and their families can all use it.

SMOKEY POINT — People have traveled from as far as Okinawa, Japan to receive care here in Snohomish County.

The Smokey Point Behavioral Hospital now has a unit specializing in mental health care for those in the military. There’s no other program like it in the state.

The Extra Mile Military Care center opened in February, and earlier this month was dedicated in honor of retired Army Master Sgt. Leroy Petry. The ceremony was on the 74th anniversary of D-Day.

The hospital has been open for one year.

Veterans, current service members and their families can all use the program. All its staff have some sort of connection to the military, whether they’re a veteran themselves or they’ve worked closely with the community, said Matt Crockett, Smokey Point Behavioral Hospital CEO.

The program follows guidelines from the U.S. Department of Defense and Veteran Affairs. Practitioners use evidence-based care to treat disorders such as addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The unit has 14 beds, which could expand to 30 if demand continues to grow, Crockett said. Since the department hasn’t been around for a full year, he doesn’t know how busy it will get during certain seasons. So far, it’s been very full, he said. The hospital has 115 spaces altogether.

“The opportunity to serve this military population creates an ability for us to give back to them,” Crockett said. “We treat a high percentage of civilians in this hospital of course, but we would not be able to do that without the freedoms provided to us by the service members.”

When patients first arrive, they’ve reached rock bottom, he said. Typically they stay for four weeks. By the time they leave, they are more healthy physically and mentally.

The hospital won’t turn a veteran away who might not have access to health care, Crockett said. If the person is homeless, they would be connected with Veteran Affairs offices in Seattle, and get help finding a place to stay.

Petry said he believes the Smokey Point program will create a standard of care for the rest of the country. He has taken friends to similar treatment centers, but thinks this is the best he’s seen.

“In order to be a good leader you need to be well-rounded, mentally and spiritually,” he said during the ceremony. “If one of those is out of whack, it’s going to throw off the whole system.”

Petry was awarded the Medal of Honor by former President Barack Obama in 2011. He saved two of his fellow soldiers while serving in Afghanistan with the Army’s 2/75th Ranger Battalion.

During a mission in 2008, a grenade landed near the group. Petry picked it up and threw it. His right hand was lost in the explosion. He was assigned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord at the time.

Up to 20 percent of people who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan have post-traumatic stress disorder in a given year. Around 20 veterans die by suicide each day.

“This is our opportunity to reverse those trends,” Crockett said.

Stephanie Davey: 425-339-3192; sdavey@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @stephrdavey.

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