With suicides by veterans receiving a lot of attention in recent years, the Department of Veteran Affairs has placed an emphasis on access to mental healthcare for vets. Their longtime programs, such as same-day emergency treatment, are all under the microscope as it is evident that change is needed.
The VA has also worked on developing the National Strategy for Preventing Veterans Suicide. This program works by identifying patients who are high risk and working on intervention to prevent self-harm. A large part of the program is also an extensive public health messaging strategy. The VA estimates that it helps 1.7 million veterans get help for mental health issues. That help can range from staying in psychiatric hospitals and outpatient services.
The VA has made a statement regarding the available programs on the heels of recent suicides while staying at VA facilities. The deaths were all within less than a week. In one case, a veteran shot himself in a VA facility in Texas. The other two instances took place in Georgia in separate locations. The veteran who shot himself in Texas apparently did so because he was notified that he could not get the treatment and help that he required for his mental health condition.
These suicides have made it clear to the VA that there needs to be better access to emergency mental healthcare for veterans that goes beyond what is currently offered. Mark Takano is the chairman of the House Committee on Veteran Affairs. He has called for the committee to conduct a hearing on what option there might be to provide better mental healthcare access. Republican Johnny Isakson of Georgia, who is the chairman of the Senate Committee of Veterans Affairs, has stated that ending the stigma surrounding mental health treatment is also of paramount importance.
The VA will look to meet all of the challenges facing access to mental healthcare as quickly as possible, since veteran suicides have been on the increase for several years.