Bay Pines VA Healthcare System
Recovery is an ongoing journey
In August 2014, U.S. Air Force Veteran John Kasica walked into the doors of the Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Recovery Center (PRRC) at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center for the first time. He was on edge, depressed, and in his own words “physically and emotionally lost with no direction or hope for the future.” He needed help.
At that time in John’s life, a series of unfortunate and traumatic events occurred that literally tested his emotional limits starting with his exit from military service and a divorce shortly thereafter, the death of his father in 2006, and termination from his longtime employer in 2007 which forced him back to college to train for a new career. John’s hardships culminated with the death of his mother in 2014.
“I felt like I was under a steam kettle,” John said reflecting on his past. “I was extremely depressed and felt totally abandoned. I really didn’t know what to do – that is when I turned to the VA for help.”
After a series of appointments with his primary care provider and mental health professionals, he was referred to PRRC.
Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Recovery Center (PRRC)
“PRRC is an outpatient multidisciplinary treatment program that provides mental health services for Veterans suffering from severe and persistent mental illness,” said Christine Agenor, Nurse Manager, PRRC.
“The program is really about recovery, and to Veterans who seek our services that means living a satisfying life, with or without the limitations of a psychiatric disability. Recovery is not a destination, but an ongoing journey,” she said.
Veterans are referred to PRRC after receiving an initial mental health evaluation. The program uses a recovery-based model of care to help Veterans recover from their mental illness. Veterans involved in PRRC receive individual assessments and curriculum planning, skills training classes, psychoeducational classes, illness management and recovery classes, peer support services, and family educational programs.
Veterans may also receive psychiatric services, individual psychotherapy, peer support services and recreation therapy. Mental health services are available to Veterans through the program as long as needed, with successful discharge from PRRC being mutually agreed upon by the Veteran and his or her treatment team.
Treatment and Recovery through PRRC
At the time of his engagement with PRRC, John had been receiving both primary care and mental health care services at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center. Up to that point, his services were routine in nature. He made and kept scheduled appointments and did his best to remain in good health.
“To be honest, I was reluctant to start the program,” he said “…but I knew I needed help. I needed something to get back into the swing of life…I needed to live again…to feel alive. At that point, I think I forgot what life felt like.”
John committed to the program, and took advantage of everything PRRC had to offer and more. At first, he attended activities almost every day. As his emotional state improved, his visits became less frequent but no less important.
“I found the PRRC experience extremely beneficial and positive for me,” he said. “The program is education focused and individually designed for each patient, which is very important.”
“The mental health providers are so smart…so positive…and I needed that. I needed to be surrounded by positivity. They helped me understand the source of my depression. When that happened, everything started to make sense. It was like a light bulb went off,” he said.
Everyday over the course of the next year, John’s mental health improved and his outlook on life became more and more positive. His relationship with his family and friends also improved and he became fully employed as an information technology professional with a large non-profit health care organization.
John officially exited the program in September 2015 and credits PRRC for turning his life around. He said he remains fully engaged in mental health services at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center and uses the skills he learned during PRRC to cope with the daily stresses of life.
“Before I started the program, I was at the absolute lowest point in my life. Today, I feel good…I know how to take care of myself, and do what is best for me,” he said.
“I would be in the gutter somewhere if it wasn’t for the VA and the PRRC program.”
To learn more about the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System’s Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Recovery Center (PRRC), please visit www.baypines.va.gov/BAYPINES/services/PRRC.asp or call 727-398-6661, extension 12595.