Co-Occurring Disorders and Military Justice
Partnering with the Veteran's Administration (VA)
For behavioral health providers and criminal justice agencies, coordinating with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is a new venture. The department provides a wide range of services, from healthcare to home loans to burial benefits, and has three administrations:
- Veterans Benefits Administration
- Veterans Health Administration
- National Cemetery Association
The Veterans Health Administration is the agency within the VA that provides healthcare. Each year the administration provides healthcare services to six million veterans at 1,400 facilities, including medical centers, outpatient clinics, and nursing homes.
Here is an overview of how this administration is organized and initiatives that relate to veterans in the justice system.
Veterans Integrated Service Networks. Twenty-one regional networks, called Veterans Integrated Service Networks, are responsible for the operations and management of services at the healthcare facilities. Many of the networks cover multiple states in part or in whole, such as the VA New England Healthcare Network (VISN 1), but a few only cover a part of a state, such as the VA Heart of Texas Healthcare Network (VISN 17).
For a map of the geographic distribution of the Veterans Integrated Service Networks, with links to each network: http://www2.va.gov/directory/guide/division.asp?dnum=1
VA Medical Centers. Medical centers provide a range of inpatient, residential, and outpatient medical and behavioral health services. There are 137 VA medical centers throughout the United States.
Community-Based Outpatient Clinics. Outpatient clinics provide primary care and some behavioral health services, including individual and group therapy and medication management. Although the outpatient clinics offer fewer services, there are many more clinics than medical centers. For example, the VA Southwest Healthcare Network covering Arizona, New Mexico, west Texas, and limited areas of Colorado and Oklahoma, has 40 clinics compared with seven medical centers.
Vet Centers. Vet centers were first established to aid the readjustment of Vietnam veterans. Vet center provide counseling, outreach, and referral services for combat veterans and their families. The centers provide family, bereavement, and military sexual trauma counseling. They also offer medical and behavioral health screening and referrals as well as providing employment and benefits referrals.
The Vet Center web site: http://www.vetcenter.va.gov/index.asp
Potential linkages for partnerships
There are several initiatives at the network and facility levels that may be helpful to develop linkages with for partnerships to improve services for justice-involved veterans with co-occurring disorders. These initiatives include the
- OIF/OEF Coordinators
- Health Care for Re-entry Veterans
- Veterans Justice Outreach
OIF/OEF Coordinators. Many medical centers have coordinators responsible for aiding the entry of returning service members into VA healthcare services. The coordinators can aid returning veterans to schedule appointments, to answer questions about services, and to explain benefits.
Health Care for Re-entry Veterans. This initiative provides outreach and pre-release assessments for veterans in prison who are preparing for the transition back to their community. Specialists assigned to each network and each state are available to provide outreach services to incarcerated veterans. The specialists can also provide service linkages and short term case management to veterans upon release from prison.
For information on Health Care for Re-entry Veterans services: http://www.va.gov/HOMELESS/Reentry.asp
Veterans Justice Outreach. This initiative is aimed at veterans with active court cases and incarcerated in local jails. Outreach specialists who are based at a VA medical center are responsible for developing linkages with local law enforcement and court systems. They also provide outreach, assessment, and case management to justice-involved veterans.
For information Veterans Justice Outreach: http://www.va.gov/homeless/vjo.asp