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Shelley Starkey

Congressional Briefing Highlights Veterans’ Mental Health Programs

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Last week, the American Psychological Association (APA) and the RAND Corporation hosted a Congressional briefing to discuss the complex behavioral health needs of American veterans and their families. The expert panel included researchers, veterans, and clinicians who highlighted nongovernmental programs that are working in the space. Much of the day’s discussion centered on how to better engage the 40 percent of veterans that need care, but are not connected to the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).

Engaging Veterans in Need

A major topic of discussion throughout the briefing was how to reach veterans that may not have connections to government agencies like the VHA. Organizations like Home Base Veteran and Family Care are meeting veterans in their communities and removing barriers to accessing care, according to Dr. Louis Chow, Director of Education. Home Base has begun employing new intensive treatment models, offering treatment and support to family members and survivors of suicide, and teaching over 70,000 clinicians and community members about the cultural competencies that are necessary when working with veterans.

Building an Evidence Base

Terri Tanielien from the RAND Corporation highlighted the Welcome Back Veterans initiative sponsored by Major League Baseball and the Robert R. McCormick foundation, which has provided almost $30 million in grants since 2008 to academic medical institutions seeking to address veterans’ behavioral health. The seven sites funded through the initiative have delivered clinical services to military members and their families, trained providers in culturally competent practices, raised awareness of the issue in communities, and worked to fill the gaps of the mental health safety net for veterans.

Fostering Partnerships

Kacie Kelly, Program Director for the Military Service Initiative Health and Wellbeing Program at the George W. Bush Institute, discussed how they are filling the gaps for the 40 percent of veterans that need care who are not seeking it through the VHA. By building partnerships across service organizations, the Bush Institute is connecting more veterans to care, integrating data systems across provider settings, and reducing redundancies to more efficiently allocate resources. Heather O’Bierne Kelly from the APA spoke on the roles that professional associations play in the space, to include advocating for evidence-based public policy and providing members with the training they need to better serve veterans.