The rural setting of the Hot Springs Veterans Affairs Medical Center would make it an excellent place for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., said Monday at a Rapid City press conference.
Rounds, who before the press conference met privately with state Secretary of Veterans Affairs Larry Zimmerman and members of the Save the VA organization, didn't try to butter up the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in his remarks to reporters.
"The VA is probably one of the worst bureaucracies on the federal level," Rounds said in his first visit to Rapid City as a sitting senator.
He and his South Dakota Republican congressional colleagues, U.S. Sen. John Thune and U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, have pushed the VA to stop its attempt to close the Hot Springs center. Since 2011, there has been talk of closing Hot Springs and moving services to the more populous Rapid City.
But Rounds is encouraging the VA to use the Hot Springs complex as a "center of excellence" for the treatment of PTSD, which develops after a terrifying ordeal that involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm, the National Institute of Mental Health says.
"People who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened even when they’re no longer in danger," according to the website.
Military veterans who have been in combat are especially susceptible to PTSD.
After the press conference, Rounds said he has no formal scientific proof that a rural setting, such as in the bucolic city of Hot Springs, is more conducive to the success of PTSD treatment than therapy in a bustling city. But Rounds said he has heard stories that loud noises that would be prevalent in a big city may inhibit treatment.
Craig Bryan, a doctor of psychology who is the executive director of the National Center for Veterans Studies, said the setting of therapy can be beneficial in its own right. However, Bryan said, if a veteran gets treatment in a quiet setting, then returns home to a more urban area, the therapy might not prove effective in the long term.
Rounds said that because of its location, Hot Springs probably would serve PTSD victims in the upper Midwest. "There are not a lot of urban areas" in the region Hot Springs could serve, Rounds said.
A recurring theme in Rounds' press conference was his insistence that the VA meet the demands of veterans.
The goal, he said, "is not to save a hospital and jobs in Hot Springs, but how to better help the veterans."