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With women comprising 15 percent of the military now, services are expanding to meet their increasing individualized needs.

Here in Batavia, the VA facility held a ribbon cutting ceremony this morning on its new 10,000 square-foot building to treat and support female veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

It’s called the Center for H.O.P.E.: Healing Opportunities for Peace and Empowerment. The expansion will double its residency size from six beds to 12 meaning more veterans can be treated.

Dr. Laurette Lascu, the PTSD program manager in the residential program, says the Batavia VA is meeting an important need and draws residents from all over the country.

“We do see the need is growing, in part, because the word is getting out that these services are available,” Dr. Lascu saud. “And women are recognizing that they are deserving of these services.”

It makes Batavia on of 8 dedicated women’s residential PTSD programs in the national VA system.

Donna LiPuma, a social worker with the Batavia VA and a combat veteran who served a tour in Iraq, went through the program in 2008. She’s been an employee since mid-2012 and says it’s the staff and people available to those suffering from PTSD that make the Batavia VA residency program so valuable.

“When I’m able to say to a person, ‘I know what it’s like to go into combat and be one person and then come back and not have all of you with you,’ I think it gives a reference point, it gives an element of, ‘You know what? I think I can believe her because she knows what she’s talking about.’ You always hear veterans say, ‘Well, they don’t get it.’ Well, guess what? I get it.”

The center treats women from their mid-20s all the way to their 60s. Residents stay anywhere from a couple weeks to months.

The center has been serving female veterans since 2006.

(pictured: top - Assemblyman Steve Hawley, a veteran himself, speaks at and attends the reveal; right - it was a packed house in support of the program with representatives of federal and state politicians, nonprofits and more; bottom - a reverent military presence accompanied the event)

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