They’ve Given Us Their Best – It’s Time to Give Them Our Best
On November 11, Veterans Day, we honor our heroes – the men and women who answered the call to military service. We remember their achievements, their courage and their dedication and say thank you for their sacrifices.
As a 22-year Navy veteran, I can tell you how much this day of remembrance means to veterans and their families. But as we celebrate, I urge you to take a few minutes to remember those vets who are struggling with mental health and substance use disorders. They are facing their own personal battles and we owe them the best we can provide.
But getting help isn’t always easy for veterans and their families. We know that approximately 50 percent of returning service members who need treatment for mental health conditions seek it, but only half of them receive adequate care. A study we recently released with the Cohen Veterans Network revealed that lack of access to mental health services is the root cause of the mental health crisis in America.
Our veterans and their families deserve more than they are getting. And, I know we have the will to provide it.
Too often, veterans fly under the radar and we miss the opportunity to connect with them, inform treatment planning decisions and help them access care and benefits. Five years ago, the American Nurses Association launched their “Have you ever served in the military?” campaign that not only encourages health care providers to ask the question; it provides guidance on how to ask and what to ask. I urge you to implement this dynamic program in your organization without delay.
One of our Strategic Partners, Relias Learning, in partnership with us and the Department of Defense Center for Deployment Psychology, is also working to ensure that providers are equipped to provide veterans and their families the level and quality of services they deserve with the Behavioral Healthcare Certification for Veterans Care Providers program. This series of 15 self-paced online courses is specifically designed to train civilian behavioral health and primary care providers about the nuances of military orientation and specific issues affecting veterans and their families.
We can start with a commitment to change how we talk to veterans and families and ensure that we’re equipped to recognize and respond to their needs – and that’s a good start, but much more needs to be done within our flawed system.
A recent study published in the International Journal of Mental Health Systems made the following recommendation, “To improve the health and well-being of our veterans who have served this nation, requires a collaboration between public and nonprofit mental health providers at the state and local levels. It is imperative that we increase the availability of crisis intervention and mental health services for all veterans that have served this nation.”
Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs) embrace this concept and are already changing the face of behavioral health care for all Americans, including active duty military and veterans. CCBHCs are required to provide them tailored care to ensure they receive the unique health support essential to their treatment. Incentivized to provide evidence-based care and provided compensation that adequately covers their cost of doing business, CCBHCs transform access to care in their communities.
And organizations like Cohen Veterans Network are also stepping up. This not-for-profit philanthropic organization was created to serve veterans by providing high-quality, accessible and integrated mental health care. Their outpatient care is client-centered and customized to support veterans and their families as they begin their next mission: healthy and happy lives. Cohen Veterans Network currently operates 10 clinics across the U.S., providing mental health care to post-9/11 veterans and their families regardless of insurance, discharge status, ability to pay or service experience.
Even with the best, most effective health care system in place, our first priority should be to reach out to veterans before they experience a mental health crisis. To help support veterans, we have updated the Mental Health First Aid for Veterans module. The module provides a fundamental understanding of the common mental health challenges experienced by military personnel and the skills to identify and respond to them. It also teaches veterans strategies to better assess and access support for themselves, their colleagues, families and community members. If you are a veteran or know someone who is, consider taking the Veterans course so you can equip yourself with tools to recognize and respond to a veteran experiencing a mental health or substance use challenge.
This Veterans Day, as we remember our heroes, also make it a day of commitment. Each of us has a critical part to play in making sure our veterans get the best we can give them. They’ve already given us their best.