By Summer Huechtker and Riley Bean | September 2, 2020 at 6:53 AM EDT - Updated September 2 at 9:09 AM
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The second lady of the United States says she is visiting the Ralph H. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center in downtown Charleston.
Karen Pence will be joined by the Acting Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Pamela Powers and South Carolina first lady, Peggy McMaster in her visit Wednesday, officials say.
The VA Public Affairs Officer Tonya Lobbestael said the ladies are coming to highlight what the Ralph H. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center is doing to prevent suicide in veterans.
“With September being suicide prevention month, this is a prime time for them to come and help shine the spotlight on the public health issue of amongst veterans as well as among the general population,” Lobbestael said. “So I think this is a great opportunity for everyone to learn more about what they can do.
The Second Lady is the lead ambassador for a commission called PREVENTS that works to address suicide in veterans in the United States, and Pence says she’s chosen the Charleston VA as one of her stops on her tour of premier programs in the country.
“I think that one of the things that we really need to focus on is veterans do have some very complex clinical issues that they’re dealing with that are wounds of war,” Lobbestael said. “And we all know that suicide in the United States is a public health crisis.”
Pence says she is coming to learn about a method that the Ralph H. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center is using on patients with severe depression called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation.
Lobbestael said it’s a non-invasive process used to help veterans who suffer from depression and psychological health conditions.
A lot of the research for this program was done at the Ralph H. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and Lobbestael said it’s being spread across the VA system nationwide.
The VA will also give an overview of its virtual PTSD treatment, which Lobbestael said is a program they had before the pandemic. She said it was already running, but they have enhanced the program in order to keep patients on their treatment schedules.
Lobbestael said doctors and patients will also get to share stories about their programs and treatment in a round table discussion with Pence, Powers and McMaster. The roundtable will also include researchers from the VA and MUSC, Lobbenstael said.
“Having these ladies come certainly focuses even more attention on what is a national public health issue that really needs to be addressed,” Lobbestael said. “So I’m very thankful to have them come here and to see some of the really groundbreaking work that we’re doing and to learn even more about how we can care for our veterans.”
About 80,000 patients receive care from the Ralph H. Johnson Medical Center and all of their outpatient clinics along the South Carolina and Georgia coastline, Lobbestael said.
The event starts at 10:45 a.m., and the VA says they hope it brings more awareness on veterans who struggle with PTSD and depression, especially while September is Suicide Prevention Month.
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