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New Butler VA housing facility offers veterans support

| Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, 12:14 a.m.
The newly constructed VA Butler Healthcare Domiciliary on Thursday, October 25, 2012. VA Butler's new 56-bed domiciliary will provide residential rehabilitation to veterans in five new buildings for males and females. (Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review)
Damian S. Hambley, American Legion Commander for District 26 from 2004-06, listens during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the newly constructed VA Butler Healthcare Domiciliary on Thursday, October 25, 2012. VA Butler's new 56-bed domiciliary will provide residential rehabilitation to veterans in five new buildings for males and females. (Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review)
John Prichard, American Legion Commander for the 26th District, takes in the newly constructed VA Butler Healthcare Domiciliary Thursday, October 25, 2012. VA Butler's new 56-bed domiciliary will provide residential rehabilitation to veterans in five new buildings for males and females. (Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review)
The newly constructed VA Butler Healthcare Domiciliary on Thursday, October 25, 2012. VA Butler's new 56-bed domiciliary will provide residential rehabilitation to veterans in five new buildings for males and females. (Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review)
The newly constructed VA Butler Healthcare Domiciliary on Thursday, October 25, 2012. VA Butler's new 56-bed domiciliary will provide residential rehabilitation to veterans in five new buildings for males and females. (Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review)
John Prichard, American Legion Commander for the 26th District, takes in the newly constructed VA Butler Healthcare Domiciliary on Thursday, October 25, 2012. VA Butler's new 56-bed domiciliary will provide residential rehabilitation to veterans in five new buildings for males and females. (Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review)

For former Army Sgt. Bryan K. Gressly, a new housing unit at the VA Butler Healthcare System is an important step in starting over.

“I'm grateful,” said Gressly, 29, of Saxonburg, who is undergoing treatment for drug addiction. “I feel blessed to have the support of the VA and gratitude toward everyone who made this possible.”

Officials at the Butler Township health care facility cut the ribbon Thursday on an $11.5 million, five-building unit that includes a treatment center and living quarters for veterans with substance abuse and mental health problems.

The federally funded complex, within the VA campus, includes town houses with 56 beds. They replace dormitory-style housing.

John Gennaro, director of the Butler VA, said staffers encourage veterans to care for themselves, making their transition back into society less jarring. The town houses contain kitchens and laundry facilities. Veterans are responsible for cleaning, cooking and buying food.

“This is a change that will increase my quality of life,” said Gressly, who served in Iraq from 2003 to 2005.

The main treatment building includes group therapy rooms, a recreation center and a computer room.

Most veterans undergoing treatment there are from Western Pennsylvania. They stay three to six months. The program admitted just over 200 veterans last year, Gennaro said.

“It gives them a sense of pride in their lives again,” said Amy L. Capretto, executive assistant to Timothy Burke, the VA Butler chief of staff.

The town houses will enable the Butler VA to house female veterans because they offer more privacy than dorms, officials said. Veterans will move in within weeks.

The complex is one of several construction projects under way at the Butler VA, which treats more than 18,000 veterans annually.

Work continues on a community living center. Crews have completed housing for about 30 of its 60 beds. An outpatient health care center is under design, and Gennaro expects its construction to begin in the spring.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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