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

Administrator's Message: Enhancing Services for Returning Veterans

Across the Nation, veterans are returning home from their tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. For many of these courageous men and women, readjustment to civilian life will take time.

Research shows that substance abuse and mental health problems are far more frequent among returning veterans than in the general population. A recent report from SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that veterans age 18 to 25 are more likely than older veterans to have higher rates of serious psychological distress, substance use disorder, or co-occurring psychological distress and substance use disorder in the past year.

SAMHSA is collaborating with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Department of Defense (DoD), the National Guard, and veterans service organizations to enhance the safety net of resources and services for returning veterans.

For example, SAMHSA recently worked with VA to modify our toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. A new prompt offers the option of pressing #1 and connecting directly to a special VA suicide crisis line staffed by mental health professionals.

Community-based counseling and treatment programs need to know how to prepare family and friends for the return of their loved ones. SAMHSA can help by building community awareness and sensitivity to the challenges returning veterans and their families face regarding substance abuse and mental health issues.

SAMHSA recently created a special Web page of information for veterans at The Agency’s Treatment Locator Web site is another valuable resource for access to thousands of providers in locations around the country.

In May 2006, SAMHSA hosted a national conference on returning veterans (see SAMHSA News online), and in spring 2007, the Agency convened a special forum to address mental health and substance abuse treatment needs of returning veterans and their families. In a few months, SAMHSA will sponsor a second national conference on returning veterans.

We look forward to our continued collaboration with VA, DoD, the National Guard, and veterans service organizations to ensure that returning veterans with or at risk for mental or substance use disorders have the opportunity for recovery and a fulfilling life in the community.

Terry L. Cline, Ph.D.
Administrator, SAMHSA

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