VA Maryland Health Care System
From Recovery to Wellness
Baltimore native and Marine Corps Veteran Tammy Fedder credits the Recovery Center at the Perry Point VA Medical Center as “one of the most positive experiences I’ve had the in last 20 years.” Fedder, who has attended numerous “classes” at the Recovery Center, says that doing so has kept her “grounded” and on the road to getting back to her old self. “I learned coping skills, stress management, anger management, and participated in a women’s support group for the past few years. The classes provide a lot of benefits,” says Fedder, one of the earliest attendees since the Recovery Center’s inception.
Established in January 2011, the Recovery Center offers mental health and wellness services to Veterans through a centralized location on the Perry Point campus. Designed to support and facilitate mental health recovery for Veterans from a variety of settings, including VA Maryland Health Care System inpatient, residential, and outpatient mental health programs, the Recovery Center aims to significantly increase access to the highest quality mental health care for all Veterans enrolled in VA health care.
“The Recovery Center emphasizes Veteran participation in their recovery. By offering a wide array of groups and classes, Veterans have more choices, and they are encouraged to make decisions about the types of groups that will help them achieve their recovery goals,” says Dr. Jason Peer, a staff psychologist and the local recovery coordinator for the Center. “Based on the level of engagement of Veterans in the Recovery Center, it appears to be an effective way to deliver mental health programming, and there are plans to develop similar programming at the Baltimore VA Medical Center,” Peer adds.
“The programming offered by the Recovery Center fits squarely with our mission to put recovery into practice,” said Richard Goldberg, PhD, director of the Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center (MIRECC) for the VA Capital Health Care Network, which comprises the VA health care facilities in Maryland, West Virginia and Washington, DC. Goldberg also noted that the MIRECC assists with ongoing quality improvement initiatives and efforts for the Recovery Center.
For Veterans, the Recovery Center is simple: It’s a place where they can meet and discuss elements of their military experiences and the healing process with like-minded individuals who have experienced the same things and who are struggling with similar issues.
“At the Recovery Center, we focus on promoting recovery by emphasizing evidence-based practices, timely access to care, and a multidisciplinary approach where the Veteran works with both the referring providers and the Recovery Center staff to choose group classes that help them gain the knowledge, skills and support to understand and cope with mental health symptoms, to manage life stressors in a healthy way, and to increase functional capability,” says Dr. Mary Lambert, a psychologist at the Perry Point VA Medical Center and the program coordinator who was instrumental in the formation and the ongoing management of the Recovery Center.
The available classes include stress management, anger management, money management, spirituality, coping with depression, family and relationships, medication education, mindfulness practice, yoga, relationships and dating, women’s support group, positive problem solving, sleep hygiene, and Veteran vibes, among others. Since the inception of the Recovery Center, the VA Maryland Health Care System has been able to track outcomes, such as Veterans modifying their scheduled treatment groups to better meet their needs. At the start of the program, the Recovery Center offered 23 therapeutic groups and now the number has grown to 44, with representation from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development/Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing, (HUD-VASH), Chaplain Services, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Service, and traditional mental health disciplines. “There has been a steady increase in the number of Recovery Center participants. Among those who attend orientation, only three percent participate in any additional groups outside of the Recovery Center. Most Veterans who attend the orientation find something that interests them,” says Lambert.
To attend classes at the Recovery Center, Veterans can speak with their primary care or mental health providers to be referred to the program. For Veterans like Tammy Fedder, the Recovery Center provides benefits that help them stay centered in a safe environment so they can reclaim their lives.