Upstate News

October 28, 2004
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

SUNY Upstate Medical University and Syracuse VA Medical Center partner to develop a center to aid veterans with mental disorders

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — U.S. Rep Jim Walsh and Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi today (Oct. 28) announced the awarding of a $9 million research grant to the VA Healthcare Network Upstate New York (VISN 2) for the establishment of a Center for Integrated Healthcare for veterans with mental disorders at the Syracuse VA Medical Center. The grant, $1.8 million a year for the next five years, will enable the Syracuse VA to create a first-of-its-kind research program in conjunction with SUNY Upstate Medical University to provide area veterans with improved access and quality of mental health services in primary care settings.

“This effort will implement a new holistic approach to the delivery of healthcare for a veteran population with very unique needs,” said Walsh.

“The lessons learned and successes achieved here in Syracuse through this study could be replicated throughout the Veterans Healthcare system nationwide. Today’s award is a tremendous honor for the men and women who work at both medical facilities.”

The center will initially focus on providing veterans with treatment for alcohol problems, dementia, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) within Primary Care, with future plans to expand research to smoking cessation, weight management, dementia prevention, and the management of hepatitis C and diabetes in veterans with mental health disorders. The long-term goal of the center is to improve the health of veterans by enhancing the effectiveness of primary care through increasing integration of prevention and treatment services for behavioral health problems.

“Today, VA health care is all about treating the whole patient, in a primary care setting. It is about recognizing that no one illness—mental or physical—can be diagnosed and treated in isolation. Thanks to groundbreaking studies carried out by VA researchers and doctors across VA’s broad network-and particularly in our VISN 2 facilities-we know that to be effective and long-lasting, health care must be all-inclusive, must address the seen as well as the unseen aspects of patient health.”

The center will be directed by Steven Batki, M.D.,current associate chief of staff for research at the Syracuse VA Medical Center and professor of psychiatry and director of research for the Department of Psychiatry at SUNY Upstate Medical University. Mantosh Dewan, M.D., chair of the SUNY Upstate’s Department of Psychiatry, is slated to chair the center’s advisory board. The program will attract new national-caliber clinical researchers to Central New York to work on the initiative.

“I am delighted that this grant provides well-deserved recognition of the superb psychiatric care that is provided at our VA Medical Center and the .excellence of the research being done in the Department of Psychiatry at Upstate,” said Dewan. “It also points to the successes that are possible when the two institutions collaborate well. Most importantly, our veterans will see immediate benefits from this program, with continuing improvements as we learn more about what treatments are most helpful to them. Congressman Walsh has earned our gratitude for his unwavering support and leadership in making this happen.”

“The Center for Integrated Healthcare will be an important help to veterans because it will carry out crucial research based on the recognition that the primary care medical problems and mental health problems of veterans cannot easily be separated and are best addressed by treating them as an integrated whole,” added Batki.

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