Back to Graphic Version | SAMHSA News Home

SAMHSA News - January/February 2008, Volume 16, Number 1


Veterans & Their Families: A SAMHSA Priority (Part 2)

Challenges

Community providers and their local communities face significant challenges. “Today, only about 30 to 40 percent of veterans who are eligible for care actually seek care from VA,” Ms. Power says.

Mr. Moreno, for example, resisted getting help because, as a paratrooper trained to be tough and strong, he “didn’t want to look weak,” he says. Sgt. Nist notes that a roundtrip from Somerset for an appointment at the nearest VA facility “takes the whole day.”

In addition, troubling issues related to trauma can arise years, even a decade or more, after the event. Service-related health care benefits for National Guard and Reserve members, however, currently last only 2 years.

Family members affected either by deployments or by issues related to returning veterans also may require mental health or substance abuse care in their communities.

SAMHSA Activities

The Agency’s support for the missions of DoD and VA has produced several significant results, including the following:

  • Suicide Prevention Lifeline—1-800-273-TALK. In July, SAMHSA’s collaboration with VA culminated in a new service to help veterans and their families deal with a potential suicidal crisis. According to a recent report from SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, male veterans in the general population are at an elevated risk of suicide.
  • In cooperation with VA, SAMHSA modified its toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The Lifeline number, 1-800-273-TALK, automatically connects callers to crisis centers in their area. Starting in summer 2007, a new prompt offers the option of pressing #1 and connecting directly to a special VA suicide crisis line, located in Canandaigua, NY, and staffed by mental health professionals.

  • Web Page. A special Web page for veterans and their families is posted on the SAMHSA Web site at www.samhsa.gov/vets. (See “Resources for Veterans”.)
  • Mental Health Task Force. SAMHSA’s collaboration with DoD has included participation in the DoD Mental Health Task Force, which was “charged with looking at the efficacy of behavioral health services for active duty members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan,” says Ms. Power, who served as SAMHSA’s representative on the Task Force.
  • In June 2007, the group’s recommendations went to the Secretary of Defense, who responded in September of that year with a “blueprint for action.” DoD asked SAMHSA to analyze resources, programs, and initiatives and identify those that can aid in meeting the recommendations of the Task Force.

    The result? A recently completed “Crosswalk” document highlights several areas where SAMHSA’s expertise can help. An example, Ms. Power suggests, may be SAMHSA’s national public service campaign seeking to end the discrimination and resulting isolation that affect persons experiencing mental health and substance abuse issues—an effort that DoD “wants to begin to address broadly.”

  • National Forum. In May 2007, a national forum brought together providers of community mental health and substance abuse services and representatives of veterans service organizations. They provided recommendations to SAMHSA on how the mental health and substance abuse provider communities can support DoD and VA efforts in addressing the behavioral health needs of returning veterans and their families.
    Mr. Moreno, Sgt. Nist, and his wife, Lori Nist, who serves as secretary of the Somerset County Military Family Support Group, all attended.

Back to Top

National Conference

Planning is under way for a second national conference to be held in Washington, DC, during summer 2008. That conference will build on the lessons learned from “The Road Home” conference SAMHSA sponsored in 2006 and will provide opportunities for collaborative strategic planning to address the needs of returning veterans and their families (see SAMHSA News online, May/June 2006).

Along with SAMHSA, VA, and DoD, organizations representing two of SAMHSA’s major professional constituencies—the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors and the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors—are participating in planning discussions.

The gathering will emphasize information sharing and coordination among a variety of providers and service systems at the Federal, state, and local levels.

“Improving mental health and substance abuse treatment services for veterans is SAMHSA’s goal. We can help bring people together from the Federal, state, and local levels to make sure veterans are served with the same dedication and commitment they showed as members of our armed forces,” says Dr. Cline.

For more information, visit SAMHSA’s Web site at www.samhsa.gov/vets.

Back to Top

Back to Graphic Version