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Army plans to close River Hospital PTSD program

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River Hospital
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A program at River Hospital in Alexandria Bay, N.Y., that treats soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder will end in July. The Army issued orders to move mental health treatment onto military installations.

Ben Moore, the program’s director, said his staff successfully treated more than 250 soldiers with PTSD since 2012.

"I was absolutely stunned," Moore said. "I had no warning. Now we're going to have to figure out how we adapt to this.”

The hospital’s out-patient PTSD program was created to meet the growing need for mental health care for Fort Drum soldiers. Moore said he does not know why the Army decided to bring treatment back on post.

"I just have to believe perhaps the folks in Washington just didn't understand exactly what we have here," he said, "and exactly what the impact would be.”

River Hospital’s program is the only civilian-led treatment facility serving active duty military for PTSD in the country. Fort Drum is the only major Army base in the country that does not have a hospital on base.

Moore said staff and soldiers are concerned about how the change will affect soldiers' treatment.

"Many of them said this program saved their lives, their families. So I think this precipitous change has been very unsettling for them in particular,” Moore explained.

He said soldiers also expressed worry that receiving treatment on base will hurt their careers.

"Being on post, there's an issue of being identified, a feeling of stigmatization, a feeling of being unsafe in that environment, whereas they felt very safe in the off-post environment because it was not a military environment.”

Moore said he spoke with Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Willsboro) and other New York State officials to try and reverse the decision and keep the River Hospital program running. The closing of the program may also cause some job losses.