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Texas PTSD treatment center treats first responders, veterans

The center’s programs include cognitive behavioral therapy, couples therapy and K9 therapy

By Zeke MacCormack
The San Antonio Express-News

BANDERA, Texas — A new treatment center here caters strictly to military personnel and emergency responders, from combat veterans with post traumatic stress disorder to firefighters who lean too heavily on alcohol when their shifts end.

“No other private treatment center in the world is dedicated and focused specifically on the healing of warriors,” says a brochure for Warriors Heart, which opened in April on the grounds of the former Purple Sage Ranch off Texas 16.

A grand opening set for Saturday includes tours from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the facility at 756 Purple Sage Road, followed by speeches, food and entertainment starting at 3:30 p.m.

The 40-bed residential facility has a staff of 30 to care for patients with PTSD, chemical dependency issues and other problems brought on by high-stress work environments where one’s life could be in jeopardy without notice.

“We really work to heal the whole mind, body and spirit,” said Lisa Lannon, a former police officer who founded the center with her husband Josh Lannon and a former Army Green Beret, Tom Spooner.

Its programs include cognitive behavioral therapy, couples therapy and K9 therapy, with time alloted to enjoy the natural beauty of the Hill Country.

But it’s not cheap, with its discounted cash rate ringing up at $22,000 for the minimum stay of 28 days.

The facility operated with only around a dozen clients over its first six months due to its inability to take patient referrals from the Veterans Administration, but Josh Lannon said he expects to clear all of those regulatory hoops by year’s end.

The Lannons, married 16 years, got into the rehabilitation business after Josh Lannon spent time in a clinic himself due to an alcohol problem while working in bars.

“When he got out he couldn’t go back to nightclubs so we decided to open up our own healing facilities,” said Lisa Lannon, who was a police officer in Las Vegas from 1999 to 2003.

The couple operated six general population clinics in Utah and Arizona before selling those facilities and partnering with Spooner to open Warriors Heart.

The 543-acre site they bought here, formerly a resort and conference center, includes four homes, a lodge, a chow hall and metal/art shop.

The need for such specialized care should be obvious from this country’s loss to suicide, averaging 22 per day, of current and former military personnel, the Lannons said.

Those casualties are symbolized at Warrior’s Heart by “The War at Home,” a memorial sculpture created by Elder Heart that depicts, in metallic profiles, soldiers arrayed in a field beside the clinic driveway.

“This mobile monument is made up of steel plates created in the likeness of real American veterans who lost their battle with PTSD,” a press release states.

The facility’s team of doctors and therapists is led by Clinical Director Annette T. Hill, whose son Adam Hill served with the Army in Iraq and was pursuing a police career when he died in 2009 while battling PTSD.

Lisa Lannon knows from personal experience that police, firefighters and paramedics often turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with stress and emotional turmoil brought on by those jobs.

“It’s very difficult for a police officer or soldier to be in a group setting with someone who doesn’t understand the front lines of life or death,” she said.

Citing confidentiality concerns, the Lannons declined to allow press interviews with past or current clients, who they said include high-ranking military and police personnel.

But testimonials from past patients conveyed their sense of deep appreciation for the clinic.

“Jose,” identified as a Purple Heart recipient with the Army’s 101st Airborne, 2nd Brigade, said he was using drugs heavily and about to give up after first seeking treatment at the VA.

He credited Warriors Heart with giving him the tools to overcome his physical and mental challenges.

“People here relate to the struggles I faced overseas and here at home. So I thank this place, Josh, Lisa, Annette, and every other person that helped me become human again,” he wrote.

Copyright 2016 the San Antonio Express-News