Nearly 40 professionals focused on education or research related to mental health have set up shop at the Canandaigua VA Medical Center's new Center of Excellence.
A team of experts focused on research, treatment, and education pertaining to mental health for veterans has started work at the Canandaigua VA Medical Center.
Kerry Knox is director of the group of 40 or so administrative officers, training consultants, and clinical researchers making up the staff of the newly-established Center of Excellence at the Canandaigua VA.
The center "takes a public health approach" to prevention of suicide and mental illness in veterans, said Knox, who is also associate professor of psychiatry and community and preventive medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center.
The goal is make sure veterans receive the care they need, explained Knox. That includes linking veterans with the appropriate services and programs, as well as educating the community and VA staff about sensitive issues such as suicide.
In addition to providing consultation and training for those involved in the VA's new suicide-prevention hotline, the center's staff is also focused on a number of other issues.
Knox, a Brighton resident, has conducted research on suicide prevention since 2000. She is trained and experienced in a number of related fields, including public health, behavioral science and physiology, and has been the lead investigator in long-term collaborations with the Air Force in studying the effectiveness of an innovative approach to suicide prevention.
On Monday, Knox talked about the Center of Excellence in Building 3 of the VA campus on Fort Hill Avenue, where offices for the center's staff are located.
Knox said work in recent months has focused on an extensive recruiting effort to bring professionals together in a project that is targeted to become a model for other Centers of Excellence across the country. Many of the center's staff are also with the University of Rochester in the Center of Excellence collaboration.
The center's staff includes: Robert Wheeler, an Army veteran with experience as a suicide-prevention coordinator; Wil Pigeon, a clinical researcher focused on behavioral therapy treatment for insomnia; Peter Britton, a clinical researcher who uses motivational interviewing techniques to get troubled veterans "to focus on a reason for living"; and Yeates Conwell, a clinical researcher with expertise on mental health treatments in elderly veterans.
The team also includes Linda Chaudron and Nancy Talbot, whose work with women and postpartum depression is being used to enhance treatment for female veterans.
Knox said the center will eventually train all of the VA's 740 employees who have direct contact with veterans — including those answering phones or greeting them at reception areas — to ask the right questions to assess whether the veteran needs mental health services.
The center is also behind initiatives aimed at linking veterans and their families with community members and organizations that can help. On Oct. 4, for example, the VA will host a seminar for local clergy to learn more about helping those coping with post-deployment stress.
The work in helping veterans "is ongoing. It never ends," Knox said.
Julie Sherwood can be reached at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 263, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.