Lewis Williams is known for his bright smile and dedication to the patients and staff of VA North Texas’ Sam Rayburn Memorial Veterans Center in Bonham, Texas.
As a VA environmental management service specialist, Williams is responsible for sanitation and infection control of the facility. A Veteran of the U.S. Navy and father of three, he brings pride and self-determination to his essential daily duties and life—something he didn’t always have.
“I’m working very hard to be the example that my kids need to follow,” said Williams. After a long-time battle with depression, alcoholism and homelessness, Williams’ road to a happier, healthier life began as a patient at the very same VA facility he now provides services to daily.
North Texas Veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress, depression, addictions, or other mental health ailments are using the Bonham based domiciliary program and its Evidence Based Therapies (EBT) to restore lives and show remarkable results. In 2018, the domiciliary model guided 65 Veterans through the program, with Veterans averaging eight-and-half weeks in treatment. With 11 evidence based therapy trained professionals, the program is moving Veterans out of crisis, into gainful employment and healthier, happier lives.
“evidence based therapy is not new, but having an entire team trained and putting these protocols to use, is proving successful for our Veterans,” says Kimberly Coleman Prier, Domiciliary Chief.
Several evidence based therapies can be applied, based on the individual patient’s needs, from Cognitive Processing Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, to Prolonged Exposure, or a combination of therapies. These therapies use continuous feedback of incremental successes throughout the treatment process to reinforce and demonstrate to the patient how they are getting better. By applying the proper therapies, at the appropriate time, with critical response and feedback, the need for medications is lessened and improvement is seen in the patient’s ability to become an active participant in their own treatment.
The program operates a closed cohort group model that builds comradery in addition to therapeutic components. What makes this program thrive is having additional employees trained in evidence based therapies that also enables care on an individual basis, for Veterans outside the cohort, while engaging in substance abuse treatment. This dual approach increases access to PTSD treatment, a choice of care, and reduces the wait time.
For patients like Lewis Williams, the program brought tools that changed behaviors and inspired hope for a new life.
“Thanks to the program, I am truly experiencing joy in my life for the first time,” said Williams.
Bonham’s program offers healing through encouragement, counseling, communication and motivation. The dedicated staff offers continuous strength and support to uncover layers of darkness and help the healing process.
“We have a tremendous team of dedicated professionals, but the successes belong to the Veterans to whom we owe our absolute best,” said Coleman Pier.
Contributor: Michael Cole is public affairs specialist for VA North Texas Health Care System. He is a retired U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer with more than 25 years of experience in public affairs and photojournalism.