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Locals seek veterans services center housed at Mayo Clinic

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The phone rings, and aMayo Clinic doctor needs help because thefamily of a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is struggling.

"Where do I send them?" the doctor asks.

It's not hypothetical. Similar scenarios have happened multiple times to Beyond the Yellow Ribbon-Southeast Minnesota members.

Right now, there's no good answer. There's not a center available anywhere in the country that has health providers who specialize in treating the loved ones of veterans, says Beyond the Yellow Ribbon.

"We think that it's going to take a Mayo Clinic to become … the font of all knowledge to help military families," Kenn Roehl, the group's co-chairman, said at a Monday brainstorming meeting at People's Food Coop in Rochester.

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If Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, which supports families of deployed and returning military members, has its way, thousands of veterans will stream into Rochester annually to get treated for PTSD and other ailments — while their family members will get access to military-specific treatment for the emotional turmoil PTSD afflicts on families.

Roehl said he attended last week's Destination Medical Center public-input kickoff at Mayo Civic Center in Rochester.

"I took our little concept paper and I shoved that right in the hands of several of the contractors," he said.

Months of planning

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The idea is to make Rochester the first city in the country with a "Veterans Services Center" capable of treating the needs of military family members.

Whichever medical center nationally jumps on the idea first "is going to win the hearts and minds of veterans everywhere," one of the attendees at a Beyond the Yellow Ribbon planning session said Monday.

The plan has taken shape over the course of months, withBeyond the Yellow Ribbon members contemplating Rochester's $6 billion Destination Medical Center plan and the role a veterans services center housed at Mayo Clinic could play.

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Lisa Clarke, interim executive director of the DMC Economic Development Agency, said the EDA "is now in the process of building the development plan. The idea for a veterans service center in Rochester, like other community input ideas within the eight areas of focus, will be shared with the planning subconsultants as they begin their work on building this plan."

Beyond the Yellow Ribbon organizers say they have talked with Olmsted County Public Health, DMC subconsultants, the office of Rep. Tim Walz and veterans employed by Mayo Clinic. Now, they're hoping area veterans and their families will join the effort as veterans services center "champions" to convince Mayo and Destination Medical Center leadership of the need for a treatment center to serve both veterans and their loved ones.

Organizers have prepared a vision statement that says Mayo Clinic could become "the destination treatment center for veterans and veteran families for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), related trauma/stress injuries and all other health-care needs."

More than 740,000 veterans have been diagnosed with PTSD, the group says.

"There's very little local/regional/national expertise or treatment offerings for PTSD and/or ancillary family-stress problems," according to the group, which says there are 9,800 veterans in Olmsted County, 30,000 in Southeast Minnesota, 1.1 million in Minnesota and 22 million nationwide.

Mayo spokesman Karl Oestreich said it does not appear Mayo Clinic leaders have spoken to Beyond the Yellow Ribbon about the effort.

But Roehl said the group is looking for a donor to help fund the project.Perhaps $10 million to $15 million from a veteran to kickstart the effort.

"This is a huge issue," Roehl said. "there's thousands of families out there."

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Write  beyondtheyellowribbonsemn@gmail.com

Rochester-area veterans with PTSD who feel able to share their stories for a future Post-Bulletin article, are asked to call health reporter Jeff Hansel at 285-7615.

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Write BeyondtheYellowRibbonSoutheastMinnesota@gmail.com

Rochester-area veterans with PTSD who feel able to share their stories for a future Post-Bulletin article, are asked to call health reporter Jeff Hansel at 285-7615.

Related Topics: MAYO CLINIC
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