Reaching out for help can be difficult, especially for a mental health concern. The military cultural standards of ‘never surrender’ and self-reliant ‘can do’ attitude, so integral on the battlefield, are ingrained in every Veteran. Yet, this defining character asset from military service often presents a barrier to Veterans seeking treatment. The Department of Veteran Affairs understands the difficulty many Veterans have asking for assistance and are ready to Make the Connection. VA has committed to be there for Veterans in their time of need–The Moment Recovery Begins.
In 2018, 1.7 million Veterans received VA mental health services.
VA Secretary Robert Wilkie has made Same-Day 24/7 access to emergency mental health care the top clinical priority for VA staff. “It’s important that all Veterans, their family and friends know that help is easily available.” Now, all 172 VA Medical Centers (VAMCs) provide Same-Day Mental Health Care services. If a Veteran is in crisis or has another need for mental health care right away, he or she will receive immediate attention from a health care professional.
Options for Same-Day Services:
- An in-person appointment delivered by a provider or another appropriate clinical staff member,
- A telephone call with a provider or another appropriate clinical staff member,
- Via smart phone,
- Via telehealth, and or
- Secure messaging.
Every VA health care facility stands ready to provide high-quality mental health care and suicide prevention resources to Veterans through a full spectrum of outpatient, inpatient and telemental health services.
Among them, the Michael E. DeBakey VA medical center in Houston, Texas recently opened a brand-new mental health facility and hired 90 additional staff. The expansive building houses outpatient mental health programs such as the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Program, neuropsychology, Veterans Justice Outreach, behavioral health, and marriage and family counseling.
Carine Meyer, LCSW; Audrey Dawkins-Oliver, LCSW; and Dr. Lisa Robinson, a psychologist in the PTSD program, at the new Mental Health Facility on the campus of the Michael E. DeBakey VAMC.
Medical Center Director Francisco Vazquez, spoke clearly about the new facility, “We are going to offer world-class care to our Veterans and provide it to them in a Veteran-centric manner. Our new mental health building is a visible testament to our commitment and dedication to our Veterans. We want all Veterans to know that top quality care is here and easy to access.”
At the Martinsburg VA medical center in West Virginia, VA staff continue to provide Same-Day Mental Health Service. Any Veteran arriving at the facility that requests immediate mental health care is quickly seen by a triage team consisting of social workers and psychologists. They talk to the Veteran and try to understand his or her needs. After providing a clinical assessment, staff work together with the Veteran to determine the best avenues for care.
Social Work Executive Monique Smith, beams with pride when discussing her social work staff’s availability to Veterans. “Any veteran feeling distressed or needing to talk to someone, our social workers are available 24/7,” she says. Social workers are available during regular business hours, have regular shifts in the Emergency Department, and are on-call around the clock. Also, each treatment decision made by her team, is reviewed by her personally. “With these processes, no Veteran will fall through the cracks.”
In addition to same-day mental health service at all VA facilities, the Veterans Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255) is available 24/7/365. Whether through a phone call, text message or confidential online chat session, specially trained responders are ready to help and show they care.
Veterans have immediate access to mental health care through several resources from VA, however, they need your help too. Many people don’t know how to support the Veteran in their life who is going through a difficult time. Sometimes a simple act of kindness can be the difference.
June is PTSD Awareness Month. Growing public understanding of PTSD and spreading the word that PTSD treatment works takes all of us. If you’d like to join our efforts, we ask that you complete the Raise PTSD Awareness Pledge (PDF) and share the Veterans Crisis Line with Veterans you know and your contacts.