By KEVIN BURBACH
Jul 3, 2015
This photo taken April 13, 2015, shows exterior of the grand rotunda entry to the historic Black Hills VA in Hot Springs, S.D. The 108-year-old veteran’s hospital built of thick blocks of pink sandstone and topped with red, tiled roofs in a Spanish mission-style overlooks the tiny town of Hot Springs, a scenic escape that’s become a haven known for healing veterans over the last century.HOT SPRINGS, S.D.
(AP Photo/Kristina Barker) The Associated Press
Perched atop a bluff in the remote Black Hills, a veterans hospital built of thick blocks of pink sandstone and topped with red-tiled roofs in a Spanish mission style overlooks the tiny town of Hot Springs, South Dakota, and has provided recovering soldiers a bucolic haven for more than a century.
Wounded warriors from Civil War battles at Antietam and Gettysburg came to the Battle Mountain Sanitarium for brief, intensive treatments for musculoskeletal and respiratory conditions. Physicians believed the dry air and warm, fabled mineral springs helped mend broken soldiers. Today, veterans from the Vietnam to Iraq wars suffering from ailments such as post-traumatic stress disorder and drug and alcohol abuse recuperate at this quiet retreat.
But this long tradition could soon end. Officials with the Department of Veterans Affairs have proposed shuttering the campus and relocating some of its services 60 miles north to Rapid City, the second largest city in the state, leaving only an outpatient clinic in Hot Springs, which the state calls "The Veterans Town."
One of the key issues driving a wedge between the VA and the veterans fighting to keep the hospital open is its remote location. Does the isolation and serenity of Hot Springs help heal patients or hold them back?
"We have not seen any evidence that proves serene environment versus a more city-like environment changes the outcome of the patients," said Jo-Ann Ginsburg, the acting director for the VA in the Black Hills.
But many of the region's veterans argue that the tranquil environment in a town of 3,500 people is just as crucial to healing today as at the beginning of the 20th century and cannot be replicated outside Hot Springs.
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