Tomah VA Whole Health Program gives options to veterans

TOMAH, Wis. (WKBT) -- - The Tomah VA Medical Center is taking a new approach to health care by giving more power to the veterans who receive it. 

There are 18 VA hospitals across the country that are in the process of implementing this new program. 

Tomah VA patient Tony Worden said the VA is offering a new approach that gives him control of improving his health. 

"(They are asking me), 'How are you doing physically, psychologically, relationships, exercise, diet?'" Worden said. "I wasn't aware of it as being an entire program." 

Since he began treatment for PTSD and substance abuse in 2014, the VA started to offer him different resources. 

"Things started to be presented to me, because of my particular symptoms and my circumstances, that this program and these classes would help," Worden said. 

That was the beginning of the Whole Health Program designed to give patients a voice for their own well-being. 

"It was not just going to see the doctor for a prescription," Worden said. "It was more patient-centered." 

The Tomah VA now has five full time Whole health Coaches who ask questions like. 

    -What would you like to happen?
    -How important is health to you?
    -What can you do?
    -What is the first step?
    -How confident are you in this?

Whole Health Program Manager Jessica Hennessey said VAs across the country are moving away from traditional heath care. 

"The traditional model or the medical model is, 'what's wrong and how can we help you fix it,'" Hennessey said. "'What are the areas and what are the goals that you have for your health,' and then partnering with the veterans to find out what we can provide to them."

Whole Health Coaches like Sally Kindell listen to ideas veterans like Worden have and then turn them into possibilities. 

"They are able to succeed better because it's what they wanted," Kindell said. "They helped establish that goal and that plan." 

Worden said the system has made a massive impact.

"It's literally a quantum change," Worden said. 

He said exercise and sleep have improved because he was able simply to ask for help.

"Those were big concerns and I was able to express those and they were able to help me get directed towards the right resources," Worden said. 

Worden said he is now closer than he ever was to a problem-free lifestyle. 

"My perception of pain is less, my quality of life has improved significantly," Worden said. "But it's an ongoing process. It doesn't stop."

Whole Health officials in Tomah said they hope to hire three new full time health coaches by the end of the year. 

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