Batavia's VA Medical Center has a respite for female veterans who want to heal from past military trauma. The program just got a new space of its own and will be able to serve even more veterans.
"It's very exciting to finally see it come to reality. Residents in our program for months have been anxiously waiting this day as well," program manager Dr. Lauretta Lascu said.
The $15 million Center For H.O.P.E., which stands for Healing Opportunities for Peace and Empowerment, officially opened Friday morning at the Batavia VA campus. The program usually helps six patients at a time, but the new space doubles that to 12.
"We do see the need is growing, in part because the word is getting out that these services are available and they are deserving of these services," Dr. Lascu said.
Women travel from across the nation to get help here. It is one of only eight in the country. Donna LiPuma was one of those women. After a family death and a tour in Iraq, she reluctantly asked for help.
"I learned a lot of new skills; a toolbox in order to cope with the PTSD and physical things. I decided I was going to be a PTSD survivor not a victim," she said.
Diana Coke is a social worker who helped start the program in 2006. Coke is also a veteran.
"When we would see the women come in through these doors in the little house down the road and they would be so guarded and then come together, they were like a military unit. They had each other's backs and a safe place to talk," Coke said.
Female veterans face issues like sexual assault, harassment and combat stressors, which lead to PTSD. This program helps them cope and get back into civilian life.
"There is no shortage of women that need the help," Coke said.
Now a bigger space will help serve even more female vets. The women in the program will be able to move into the new space in the next couple of weeks. The program lasts up to eight weeks.