An estimated 20% of Afghanistan and Iraq veterans screen positive for PTSD or depression, and the mental health community is, at best, disjointed in dealing with this. Veteran’s Affairs spent $6.2 billion — up slightly from last year — on inpatient, residential, and outpatient mental health programs, but veterans are still having difficulties being treated.
As a first step in supporting these veterans, those of us in civilian life can work to close the gap between providers of mental health services and the veterans who desperately need their help. An April GAO report surveyed civilian mental health care providers, finding that only 39% were accepting new patients with veteran’s TRICARE health insurance coverage. For many veterans, this is the only way they can afford mental health assistance, and yet in many regions of the country it can be nearly impossible to find someone who accepts their insurance. It is a significant — and unnecessary — barrier to veterans getting the help they need. On this Veteran’s Day, we should start taking steps to bridge that barrier.
The Office of Mental Health Services aims to insure that all veterans have access to needed mental health care. VA Mental Health advances the principle that mental health care is an essential component of overall health care and promote mental health recovery. The internet site is intended to serve veterans, their family members, mental health clinicians, VA staff, affiliated mental health associations and the community, providing information about mental health conditions and services.
The staff work closely together to develop a treatment plan which meets the specific needs of each Veteran we see. To make access to mental health care more convenient to Veterans, our mental health specialists are also located at VA community clinics in Santa Rosa, Downtown San Francisco and Mare Island in Vallejo.
Program Description The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides general and specialty mental health services for treatment of the broad range of mental health conditions, including treatment for substance abuse disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma (discussed in detail below) and serious mental illness. Services are provided in the outpatient and inpatient mental health setting. General and psychogeriatric mental health services are provided as an integral part of primary care within the Patient Aligned Care Teams (PACT) as well as VA nursing homes and residential care facilities where many Veterans receive care.
Guiding Principles The Guide to VA Mental Health Services for Veterans and Families (also available in Spanish : Guia de Servicios de Salud Mental que el Departamento de Asuntos de Veteranos Ofrece a los Veteranos y sus Familias) is intended for Veterans, Veteran family members, members of Veterans Services Organizations, or members of other groups interested in VA mental health care. You can use this handbook to learn what mental health services your local or regional VA health care facility has pledged to provide to Veterans. The following information has been pulled from the guide, and is intended to serve as a brief overview. Please see the Guide for more detailed information. Focus on Recovery – Recovery empowers the Veteran to take charge of his/her treatment and live a full and meaningful life. This approach focuses on the individual’s strengths and gives respect, honor, and hope to our nation’s heroes and their families. Coordinated Care for the Whole Person – VA health care providers coordinate with each other to provide safe and effective treatment for the whole person—head to toe. Having a healthy body, satisfying work, and supportive family and friends, along with getting appropriate nutrition and exercising regularly, are just as important to mental health as to physical health. Mental Health Treatment in Primary Care – Primary Care clinics use Patient Aligned Care Teams (PACTs) to provide the Veteran’s healthcare. A PACT is a medical team that includes mental health experts. Mental Health Treatment Coordinator – Veterans who receive specialty mental health care have a Mental Health Treatment Coordinator (MHTC). The MHTC’s job is to understand the overall mental health goals of the Veteran. Around-the-Clock Service – Emergency mental health care is available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week at VA medical centers. If your VA does not have a 24-hour emergency room, it must provide these services through a local, non-VA hospital. Telephone evaluations at VA medical centers and the national crisis hotline are also available 24/7. Care that is Sensitive to Gender & Cultural Issues – VA health care providers receive training about military culture, gender differences, and ethnic issues in order to better understand each Veteran. Care Close to Home – VA is moving closer to where Veterans live by adding more rural and mobile clinics and working with other health care providers in the community. Evidence-Based Treatment – Evidence-based treatments are treatments that research has proven are effective for particular problems. Mental health providers receive training on a wide variety of proven treatments. Mental health providers must offer evidence-based treatments to Veterans. Family & Couple Services – Sometimes, as part of a Veteran’s treatment, some members of the Veteran’s immediate family or the Veteran’s legal guardian may be included and receive services, such as family therapy, marriage counseling, grief counseling, etc.
About VA Mental Health . (1970). Retrieved on May 17, 2014, from http://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/vamentalhealthgroup.asp.
Benefits.gov . (1970). Retrieved on May 17, 2014, from http://www.benefits.gov/benefits/benefit-details/4747.
Mental Health Services . (1970). Retrieved on May 17, 2014, from http://www.patientcare.va.gov/mentalhealth.asp.
Ret. Lt. Col. Steve Brozak. (1970). Veterans’ access to mental health services needs fixing . Retrieved on May 17, 2014, from http://money.cnn.com/2013/11/11/news/economy/veterans-mental-health/.
San Francisco VA Medical Center. (1970). Mental Health . Retrieved on May 17, 2014, from http://www.sanfrancisco.va.gov/services/mentalhealth.asp.