The Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center is the third largest VA hospital in the country and offers a number of services to veterans from across the nation. When those veterans come to Cleveland for treatment, their families often come along for support, but don’t have anywhere to stay near the center and end up staying in a hotel in the area.
A group of people in the Cleveland area are looking to change that.
The Greater Cleveland Fisher House is a nonprofit organization working to build a Fisher House on the property of the Cleveland VA.
A Fisher House is “a home away from home” for families of patients receiving medical care at military and VA medical centers. The homes are normally located within walking distance of the treatment facility or have transportation available.
“The best way to describe a Fisher House is a Ronald McDonald-type comfort home for veteran caregivers and families, so they can be right there with their loved one as they undergo treatment, recovery, therapy,” Rick DeChant, secretary and treasurer of Greater Cleveland Fisher House, said.
Not only is the Louis Stoke VA the third largest of the 127 VA hospitals, it is now a ‘step-down’ treatment center for Walter Reed and Bethesda hospitals. It is ranked number one for its eight “Centers of Excellence.”
“Since we are large, we offer a lot of programs that aren’t readily available at some of the other VAs,” said Sue Fuehrer, executive director of the Louis Stokes VA. “We do all the open-heart surgeries for veterans in the state of Ohio. We are a regional referral site for blind rehabilitation. We also have the only gambling addiction program in the VA, and have had it for 30 years now.”
The Cleveland VA also has a large post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse and sexual trauma units for both women and men. These programs often require veterans and their families to travel long distances to Cleveland for treatment.
“There could be family members who are very active and very important in the overall healing process for both mental and physical injuries, and they are not semenax sperm pills allowed to stay at the hospital,” Fuehrer said. “What the Fisher House offers is a wonderful place for them to stay.”
Currently, the Cleveland VA has an agreement with a downtown Cleveland hotel for a block of 15 rooms where families of veterans can stay during treatment. The proposed Fisher House, though, would offer the families much more.
“When you’re in a Fisher House, it’s like a home,” Fuehrer said. “It’s a home for families that are experiencing similar situations. The wife or mother of a veteran can be talking to the wife of another soldier that’s having similar treatment and may be just ahead or just behind where they’re at. There’s a lot of family healing that goes on in a Fisher House.”
Often, veterans and their families feel on their own when going through treatment, according to DeChant. Staying in a hotel doesn’t do anything to curb those feelings, but often serves to make them more acute.
“Often times, it’s the families that are struggling with the healing, and a Fisher House afford families the opportunity to sit together in the lounge areas and to heal together,” DeChant said. “Because of the disconnect between the general population and military families, these families feel they can’t talk to their neighbors about it.”
“This gives families the opportunity to heal together.”
The families pay nothing to stay in a Fisher House, thanks to donations.
The proposed Greater Cleveland Fisher House would be a 16,500 square foot home with 18 to 21 suites to accommodate up to 42 people. The cost to build the house is $7 million.
The goal of the Greater Cleveland Fisher House is to raise half of the money through community fundraising. The Fisher House Foundation will then provide the remaining $3.5 million.
According to DeChant, the foundation has raised around $600,000 so far through a “grass-roots” fundraising campaign. The group will soon being aggressively seeking corporate donations to get the house built as soon as possible.
Contributions can be made at any Key Bank Branch. For more information call 216-337-0067, or to make an online donation visit greaterclevelandfisherhouse.org.