SANBORN, N.Y. (WIVB) - Some of the veterans coming home from wars in the Middle East suffer from post-traumatic stress, and prescription drug addiction.
A new facility built to help those troops is ready to be opened in Sanborn, but appears to be caught up in government red-tape.
Take a step inside the Freedom Village and that "new building smell" hits you in the face. Twenty-five beds sit empty and unused, the air conditioner whirs, and the one thing that is conspicuously absent is the patients - military veterans who need serious help.
Paige Prentice, the VP of Operations for Horizon Health Services, said the construction is finished. Her staff is hired. So why isn't Freedom Village open?
"The state needs to sign the contract. And the way I understand it, the contract will take four months to be signed," she said.
Officials at Horizon Health Services expected to open the Freedom Village on September 1st. But they say the state told them at that point, it would take another four months to sign the contract, licensing the facility.
"Which is unbelievable to me that it would take four months to sign paper," Prentice said.
Many veterans returning home from war receive prescription drugs to treat their physical and emotional wounds. What rehab centers are seeing is that in many cases those prescriptions lead to addictions. And that's what the Freedom Village is here to treat.
"To see them struggle with substance abuse and other emotional problems, you really want to reach out and assist them any way you can," said Jeremy Hitt, who was hired to serve as associate director of the Freedom Village.
Horizon officials say the Freedom Village has been in the works since 2008. The average in-patient stay for veterans will be 90 days, and they will include re-integration help along with the substance abuse rehabilitation.
Most of its funding is coming from the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services or OASAS.
"I think that's a great point. We are very grateful to the state for putting this facility here, for having it built. I just really think there needs to be some efficiencies worked into how we get things done," Prentice said.
They believe government bureaucracy and red tape is preventing our nation's veterans from getting the help they need.
OASAS blames Horizon Health Services for the delay. A representative sent this statement to News 4:
"OASAS is waiting to hear back from Horizon to expedite the opening of the veteran's program at Freedom Village. We are waiting to hear about some building code related issues that still need to be resolved before the building can be occupied. Additionally, Horizon has not yet provided OASAS with the signed contract necessary to fund the program."
Senator George Maziarz calls the delay "ridiculous." He says he is planning a conference call with OASAS and Horizon by the end of the week to speed up the process.
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