Clarksville Clinic Aims To Fill Mental Health Gaps For Military Families And Veterans | Nashville Public Radio

Clarksville Clinic Aims To Fill Mental Health Gaps For Military Families And Veterans

Aug 13, 2018

A military-focused mental health clinic in Clarksville has been so in demand during its first three months that it's on track to becoming the busiest for a new nonprofit. Cohen Veterans Network has been starting sites around the country focused on post-9/11 veterans.

This is the 10th location for the organization, which is funded by a $275 million commitment from New York philanthropist and hedge fund billionaire Steven Cohen. In three months of operation, the Clarksville clinic has seen 275 families — more than any other site during their startup phases.

CEO Anthony Hassan says the organization has been locating near massive Army installations like Fort Campbell, as well as major metro areas.

"We do know that there is a very dense population of veterans and military family members compared to a Philadelphia … or a Dallas where they're more spread out," Hassan says. "We're here to fill gaps in care."

Hassan notes that services for active-duty military are often unavailable to family members, who make up nearly half of all patients at Cohen clinics. Also, nearly a quarter of the patients are referred from the VA since not all veterans qualify for mental health benefits.

But the clinic is also partnering with the VA, working out an agreement to provide its community room for VA programs. The VA has a spacious new clinic in Clarksville, but its closest hospital is in Nashville.

The Cohen clinic is locally operated by Centerstone, which mostly hired staffers who are either veterans or military spouses. Initially, the counselors and therapists are seeing conditions like anxiety, depression and grief, often related to continuing military deployments.

The care is meant to be low- or no-cost. So long term, Centerstone plans to seek funding from the state or Montgomery County.   

"We're really looking for an expanded partnership within the communities where we're providing services," says Centerstone CEO Bob Vero. "But currently we're just not allowing insurance coverage to be a barrier to care."

The clinic's staff is still trying to get approved as providers in key insurance networks, including the military's Tricare program. But Vero says no one will be turned away for now.