VA Hospital in Waco, TX Provides Services for Returning Troops
Department of Veterans Affairs in Waco, Texas
For more than 75 years, the Waco Veterans Affairs Medical Center has been caring for veterans.
For more than 75 years, the Waco Veterans Affairs Medical Center has had a formidable presence in Waco. Indeed, when it first opened – during the early part of the Great Depression – many saw the hospital as an economic godsend.
Today, the hospital is going strong, employing about 800 people. “It is one of the major employers in Waco,” says Nelia Schrum, public affairs officer for the Temple-based Central Texas Veterans Health Care System.
It was not always that way. Several years ago, the VA hospital survived the threat of closure as part of nationwide restructuring. Waco government officials, the Heart of Texas Council of Governments, residents and VA groups rebelled, stressing that Texas has the third-largest population of veterans in the country.
The hospital’s proximity to Fort Hood – a major hub for soldiers going to and from Iraq and Afghanistan – stood in its favor. So did the hospital’s focus.
“We are largely a psychiatric facility,” Schrum says. The hospital was founded in 1932 to serve veterans suffering from nervous or mental disabilities. (The hospital also has a blind rehabilitation unit.)
Demand for mental health services has increased as troops have returned from overseas deployments. Post-traumatic stress disorder and brain injuries caused by explosive devices are to blame, Schrum says.
In 2006, the hospital was named a “center for excellence” for mental health research and care.It is currently enhancing services for post-traumatic stress disorder and brain injuries, as well as mood disorders.
The Neuropsychiatry Research Program in Waco and at the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System’s other hospital in Temple has established a clinical research center to explore the root causes of PTSD and developmental stress disorders, such as depression.
In Marlin, the VA operated a hospital until 2002. The building then was used as a community clinic for several years before closing.
State Sen. Kip Averitt recently acquired funds to add security features so that the 56-year-old hospital can become a medical facility for female prisoners.