VA Increases Mental Health Staff
In anticipation of addressing the needs of returning Veterans, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced that the department will be hiring additional mental health clinicians. Among the 1600 plus positions to be filled, there will be an increase in the number of nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers hired, as well as an increase in support staff. Under the leadership of President Obama and Secretary Shinseki, the Department of Veteran Affairs has devoted more people, programs, and resources toward mental health services to serve the growing number of Veterans seeking mental health care from the VA.
Secretary Shinseki stated, “History shows that the costs of war will continue to grow for a decade or more after the operational missions in Iraq and Afghanistan have ended. As more Veterans return home, we must ensure that all Veterans have access to quality mental health care.”
There are current VA facilities that require more mental health staff to keep up with the number of Veterans that require these services, and the VA is trying to move quickly to address the needs. Due to the rise in Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSS) and other mental health issues facing our Veteran population, there are increased demand for services, growth needs for the Veterans Crisis Line, and anticipated increase in Compensation and Pension/Integrated Disability Evaluation System exams. According to VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. Robert Petzel, “Mental health services must be closely aligned with Veterans’ needs and fully integrated with health care facility operations. Improving access to mental health services will help support the current and future Veterans who depend on VA for these vital services.”
Funding for the expanded workforce will come from the current budget, and will be distributed throughout the twenty-one Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISNs) across the country so that they can begin recruiting immediately. Since 2009, the VA has increased the mental health care budget by 39 percent. Last year, the VA provided specialty mental health services to 1.3 million Veterans.
By integrating mental health care into the primary care setting, the VA has made advances in de-stigmatizing mental health issues. By developing an extensive suicide prevention program and increasing the number of Veterans Readjustment Counseling Centers, the VA’s Veteran Crisis Line has seen a dramatic rise in the number of calls they receive, resulting in the rescue of more than 21,000 Veterans in crisis.
“The mental health of America’s Veterans not only touches those of us at VA and the Department of Defense, but also families, friends, co-workers, and people in our communities,” said Petzel. “We ask that you urge Veterans in your communities to reach out and connect with VA services.”
To locate the nearest VA facility or Vet Center, visit them on the web. Immediate help is available by calling the Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (push 1), texting 838255, or on the web at www.VeteransCrisisLine.net.
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