WHEATFIELD – As veterans return from active duty, they face a transition to civilian life that few without that experience can understand. It’s a transition that, for some, can lead to post traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues, including chemical dependency.
Horizon Health Services recently opened “Freedom Village,” a veterans treatment center, funded with a $3.3 million, state-funded Office of Alcohol Abuse and Specialized Services grant.
The 25-bed, male-only, inpatient treatment center, adjacent to Horizon Village, offers an option to follow a three- to four-month treatment plan while in the company of others who share the same experiences.
An official grand opening is planned after the holidays.
Adam Klyczek, of Lockport, was treated for a substance abuse problem in Horizon Village prior to the opening of Freedom Village. He said he was struggling with PTSD and depression after serving as a medic in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. He was in Iraq from 2007 to 2008 and went to Haiti for medical relief in 2010 after that country was struck by an earthquake,
“It got so bad at times that I just didn’t know what to do,” he said. “Some of the only things I could feel, I didn’t want to feel. So I used alcohol and drugs to transport me somewhere else. And it got so bad that as soon as I would sober up and come clean, all my problems got that much worse, so I would use again, and it just became this terrible cycle, and I didn’t know how to get out.”
Now, at 26, he is attending Niagara County Community College and serves as a motivational speaker.
He said a treatment center just for veterans is “huge.”
“The focused therapy on PTSD and depression is so intertwined, it’s impossible to separate the two, especially knowing the difference between combat PTSD; and the other thing is the camaraderie, the brotherhood, being with other guys you know who have served is something – there is no civilian experience,” he said.
Muted colors, large two-bed rooms, a weight room, a laundry room, a computer room as well as a number of group meeting rooms, are reminiscent of a college dormitory. But in this case, staff, on duty 24 hours a day, are trained to deal with some of the issues such as night terrors, depression and struggles to readjust to civilian living that can plague a veteran who may have served on active duty.
This specialized service also opens up beds in other already overcrowded Horizon Village programs, said Jeremy Hitt, associate director of Freedom Village, and Chris Frigon, director of Horizon Village Campus.
“The wait lists here (in Western New York) are enormous,” Frigon said. “We fill a niche in our community. There’s nothing like this.”
“Everyone’s experience is different,” Hitt said. “Not everybody served in combat or served overseas. Ultimately, with the stigma around addiction, the more that we communicate, and with people like Adam sharing his story, we can let people know, ‘Hey there’s a bump in the road. You got caught up in this disease of addiction. You got treated for it, and you can still move forward.’ ”
Frigon agreed, saying people should not see addiction as a moral failure but as a disease, “a highjacking of the brain.”
Frigon said the program offers a speaker series featuring other veterans who have struggled with addiction.
“It’s to show their story of success. It’s to offer experience, strength and hope. To show people there is a way through the disease,” he said.
Adam said, “I tell people there is hope, a lot of hope. There’s going to be hiccups down the road, but if you hold your head high, you can get through it. There’s so much on the other side. It’s hard to see when you are in that dark place, but if you have the right words it can help.”
More information about Horizon Village and Freedom Village, both located on Inducon Drive off Lockport Road, is available at www.horizon-health.org or by calling 731-2030.