Earlier this week, the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) celebrated the opening of a gambling addiction center in Las Vegas.
The 20-bed facility is just the second such run by the VA. The Las Vegas Residential Recovery and Renewal Center will help veterans learn about what triggers their addictions and develop a prevention plan. They will also receive assistance in developing personalized recovery plans and learning what community support programs are available.
The center is designed to accommodate veterans for stays between 30 and 45 days.
Gambling and substance abuse already exist here. It’s important that we are responsive to that when problems arise for our Veterans,” said Dr. Roxanne Untal, the center’s program manager, in a VA blog. “The biggest goal is to provide residential care for Veterans when more intensive care is needed than what they would receive in outpatient treatment.”
The center includes a five-bed wing specifically for women.
The VA’s other in-house gambling treatment center is located in Cleveland.
Treatment Center ‘Fills a Gap’
While staying at the center, veterans treatment programs includes a variety of daily activities. Patients can study exercises like archery and yoga. In addition, an on-site staff attendant is available around-the-clock.
“This facility fills a gap in our mental health continuum of care,” said Tim Jobin, chief of Behavioral Health for the VA’s Southern Nevada Healthcare System. “The staff has dedicated countless hours of planning, mindfulness and reviews to make this happen here today. This is a great day for Veterans.”
According to the VA, veterans seeking help can either seek a referral from their primary care doctor or utilize the VA’s same-day walk-in mental health services.
Untal added that any licensed provider can make a referral for a consultation and screening.
Problem Gaming in the US
The National Council on Problem Gaming estimates that about 2 million Americans suffer from gambling addiction. In addition, another 6 million individuals are at risk because they meet some of the criteria related to problem gaming and experience negative behaviors related to their gambling activities.
Earlier this year, the VA New England Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center at the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford, Mass., released the findings from a pilot study funded by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. The study screened 260 veterans who visited the hospital’s behavioral health clinic over a 10-month period. Nearly a third of those veterans reported they had gambled within the past year.
Most of the veterans who participated in the study were being seen initially for depression or anxiety.
Veterans who reported gambling were most likely to play traditional lottery games, such as Powerball, as well as scratch off games. Nearly six percent of the veterans screened were identified as having a gambling disorder and admitted their problem. The study also found that all of them had histories of anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
There’s also an effort underway to help active-duty military members get help for problem gambling. US Sen. Elizabeth Warren filed a bill earlier this year that would mandate the Department of Defense screen military personnel and develop programs for those who are battling addiction and problem gaming.