NewsLocal News


Legacy Village recovery center hoping to receive authorization to continue veterans' services

Legacy village
Posted at 7:03 PM, May 04, 2023

It's been nearly a week since the Legacy Village recovery center in Nipomo was told by the Greater Los Angeles VA that it had to discharge nearly all of its veteran clients.

Local veteran services professionals say there is a very small window of time in which crucial services for substance abuse, mental disorders, or PTSD can be provided to veterans in crisis before they are at heightened risk of death by suicide or overdose.

That is why for the past four years, Legacy Village has made it a priority to immediately take in and treat veterans who are referred to their center while they await authorization from Veterans Affairs.

In recent months, however, they say the VA has started cracking down on their services.

"Around February of 2023, we began to see denials of veterans who wanted care in the community," said Dennis Farmer, CEO of Legacy Village. "We began to hear that veterans who wanted addiction treatment would have to go to West Los Angeles, and it has resulted in dozens of veterans locally who have been denied access to care for addiction treatment."

Last Friday, the Los Angeles VA threatened to pull its contract with Legacy Village if they didn't discharge the unauthorized veterans who were staying at the center. Farmer claims this is the first time it has been an issue.

"The Greater Los Angeles VA has seemed to take issue with us treating those veterans for free, for those days in between when they get a referral and when authorization is issued. We don’t believe we are doing anything incorrect there," Farmer told KSBY.

He says the treatment and housing Legacy Village provides prior to a veteran's authorization has always been free, with no additional reimbursement requested from the VA.

Other veterans services officials underscored the importance of providing timely treatment for those who have served.

"What Legacy Village has been doing has been bringing these veterans in on a scholarship to get them treated right away, because time to care is so important for veterans or for anybody with a substance abuse disorder," said Morgan Boyd, San Luis Obispo County Veterans Services Officer. "When these veterans are ready to receive the help, we as a community, and that includes the VA, needs to be prepared to accept these veterans."

Farmer says the veterans displaced from Legacy Village are still awaiting VA authorization so they can return to the recovery center and finish their treatment programs.

"We really want to be a partner with the Department of Veterans Affairs in order to give this care. At this point, I would hope that Greater Los Angeles would approve the pending referrals for those veterans to be able to return," Farmer added.

He says in the past week, his team has been sharing their situation with other San Luis Obispo County veteran services agencies. Other local leaders we spoke to say they are in favor of a prompt, mutual agreement between Legacy and the VA.

"I hope it is resolved quickly and to the benefit of the veterans, because the veterans need that help and that is what it's all about," said Alan McKean, President of the San Luis Obispo Veterans Service Collaborative.

Farmer says the regional VA is also encouraging unauthorized veterans to seek treatment at their Los Angeles Domiciliary, but he says the long commute could deter some local vets from getting the help they need.

Thursday evening, the Greater Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Office provided KSBY News with a statement, saying they are reviewing the allegations made by Legacy Village.

They went on to explain their admittance process, saying, "All mental health treatment requires screening by VA clinical experts who can determine the best course of treatment for Veterans. Veterans who are determined appropriate for residential treatment level of care are referred for admission to the West Los Angeles Mental Health Residential Rehabilitation and Treatment Program, also referred as the Domiciliary. This is a residential facility on the West Los Angeles campus with an extensive interdisciplinary Veteran-centric support network. The Domiciliary not only provides 24-7 clinical oversight to patients, but also has access to VA outpatient clinics, inpatient wards, and specialty providers during the time that the Veteran is receiving treatment. The Domiciliary also has hands-on social workers and counselors that are not only involved in patient care during the Veterans admission, but also facilitate essential services, resources, and clinical follow-up for Veterans well after discharge. For this reason, Domiciliary care is prioritized to ensure the best care and outcome for our Veterans.

When space at the Domiciliary is not available, Veterans are referred to community care, where VA clinical recommendations in addition to Veteran preference are taken into account when selecting a Community Care Network facility. The approved referral is then authorized and forwarded to the community facility after which admission can occur."