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River Community Wellness Program Celebrates First Anniversary

Since opening in February 2013, the River Community Wellness Program at River Hospital has served the mental health needs of the community-at-large and active duty military personnel stationed at Ft. Drum. The program has seen tremendous growth in its initial year; expanding the number of soldiers served from 6 to 30 every 4-6 weeks, as well as serving over 115 community members. Since inception, 93 soldiers have successfully graduated from the program.

The River Community Wellness Program (RCWP) is the only of its kind in the United States. Through collaboration with Ft. Drum Behavioral Health Services, RCWP provides a safe environment for soldiers suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. RCWP serves as an intensive option for mental health services locally to reduce potential admissions of service members to an inpatient level of care, focusing instead on building coping skills and supports in the community. The program offers Cognitive Processing Therapy, Group and Individual Therapy, Creative Arts Therapy, Movement Therapy, Peer to Peer Therapy, Imaginal and In Vivo Exposure Therapy as well as Psychiatry and Medication Management.

“By providing our soldiers a safe place for treatment, it becomes easier to talk about their feelings. Allowing the soldiers to open up freely has proved to be a vital part of the therapeutic process,” said Bradley Frey, River Community Wellness Program Director.

When the program opened its doors, it occupied 1,756 square feet in the former administrative offices for River Hospital. One year later the program occupies 4,501 square feet - the entire building. A Welcome Wall has been added to the military side of the building. The soldiers in the program chose the quote “The Healing of Your Invisible Wounds Begins Here” to be put on the wall along with handprints of each soldier welcomed into the program.

In addition to growing need for space to serve patients, there was a need to increase the number of staff. The program began with a psychiatrist, psychologist, licensed medical social worker (LMSW), creative art therapist and the program director to facilitate the therapies on the community and military sides of the program. Over the past year, four mental health counselors, a part-time psychiatrist, a post-doctorate psychologist and nurse case manager have been added.

The River Community Wellness Program has gotten tremendous support from the local community. In addition to various donations from individuals and corporations, the local chapter of the Betterment Foundation donated a guided fishing trip in August for the soldiers and therapists in the program.