Fort Meade, Md. - A spike in cases of domestic violence, suicide, and substance abuse has prompted the Fort Meade Military base to work on fighting the stigma surrounding service members seeking help.
Fort Meade is renovating Kuhn Hall to provide military personnel, their families and Department of Defense civilians a place where they can access resources, services, and programs.
Retired Colonel Ed Rothstein, a former commander at Fort Meade between 2011-2013, said the project is more than 10 years in the making.
"I had a vision of how to fix a problem and the problem was I saw an unhealthy workforce and community."
Col. Rothstein gave Fox 5 a tour of the new Education and Resiliency Center at Kuhn Hall. Once renovations are complete, it will be a hub for military service members, their families, and contractors to access:
-Behavioral Health Services
-Education, Employment, and Employee assistance
-Family and Child Services
-Financial and Legal services
-Health and Wellness
-Social and Community Programs
-Spiritual and Faith Services
Col. Rothstein says he realized some of the challenges that service members and families face have been connected.
"The resiliency program has five specific verticals, but they’re really intertwined," Rothstein said. "It’s physical, mental, emotional, family, and spiritual, and a lot of times you don’t have one problem you have multiple."
He said for some military members, it can be hard to recognize when you need help, and in his case, it wasn’t until after he retired. Col. Rothstein hopes his example can help members going through similar situations.
"I had my own demons again whether you call it PTSD or you call it anxiety or depression," he said.
Rothstein told Fox 5 one of the main reasons they want to have the services available, is because many of the service members fight real wartime missions from behind a computer screen every day.
"When you’re done with the work inside that building you leave that building get in your vehicle and come home," Rothstein explained. "It may take five minutes, ten minutes, 20 minutes, that’s the time you have to put everything you did in that workday aside and then come home to your family, and it doesn’t give [you] a lot of time to decompress."
According to the colonel, the project would not have been possible without the help of the Fort Meade Alliance Foundation, which helped raise more than $3.5 million for the project.
Deon Viergutz, president of the foundation, says he hopes it becomes a model other military installations can use across the country.
Viergutz says they expect to have a soft opening sometime in August, and they hope to have it fully functional by January 2023.
In the meantime, they’ve created an online resiliency portal and physical kiosks will be installed starting next month so people can access the portal.
"A great place to connect all of those that are either living on Ft. Meade or in the community or they’re going to be moving to Ft. Meade," Viergutz said. "They’re somewhere else another military installation around the world, and they’re looking for what are the services that are available."