Learn about the efforts and objectives of the Service Members, Veterans, and their Families Technical Assistance (SMVF TA) Center.
Since 2010, the SAMHSA Service Members, Veterans, and their Families Technical Assistance (SMVF TA) Center has provided technical assistance support to state and territory, military and civilian interagency teams working to strengthen behavioral health systems that serve service members, veterans, and their families.
Technical assistance is also provided to SAMHSA stakeholders and grantees on issues and resources related to the behavioral health needs of service members, veterans, and their families.
The SMVF TA Center addresses the behavioral health needs of service members, veterans, and their families by:
- Monitoring evolving trends in the following areas:
- Behavioral health-focused prevention, treatment, and recovery support needs for both mental health and substance use in service members, veterans, and their families
- Challenges faced by states and territories
- Providing technical assistance, training tools, and consultation to teams within states and territories in ways that promote coordination among civilian, military, and veteran service systems
- Identifying, sharing, and encouraging the adoption of promising, best, and evidence-based practices that support the resilience and emotional health of service members, veterans, and their families
- Identifying experts and resources to meet the evolving needs of states and territories related to strengthening behavioral health care systems and services for service members, veterans, and their families
- Supporting the planning and implementation of state and territory interagency teams, including the provision of technical assistance before and after the meetings of Policy Academies
- Supporting the training of SAMHSA stakeholders and grantees on issues and providing resources and publications related to service members, veterans, and their families
The following are key objectives of the SMVF TA Center:
- Strengthening ongoing collaboration at the state and territory level among key public and private (civilian, military, and veteran) agencies and stakeholders that address, or need to address, the behavioral health needs of service members, veterans, and their families
- Providing a centralized mechanism for states and territories to use when they have questions about behavioral health systems for service members, veterans, and their families; and to learn, connect, and share with experts and peers
- Increasing awareness of and access to resources and programs that strengthen behavioral health care systems for service members, veterans, and their families
- Increasing awareness of and coordinated responses to meeting the behavioral health needs of service members, veterans, and their families among agencies, providers, and stakeholders in the states and territories receiving technical assistance
- Increasing the number of states and territories that implement promising, best, and evidence-based practices that strengthen behavioral health care systems for their service members, veterans, and their families
The United States Census Bureau estimates that there were 18.8 million military veterans living in the country in 2015. According to a 2014 Department of Defense (DOD) report, approximately 250,000 members of the military are expected to transition to our communities annually for at least the next 4-5 years.
The transition for a service member from active duty to the civilian world can be difficult. Many of these transitioning veterans and their families will need behavioral health prevention, treatment, and recovery support services in their new communities. Community supports are essential because we know the following:
- Approximately 20 veterans die by suicide each day, only 6 of whom were users of Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare services, a VA analysis of veteran suicide shows.
- Veterans are twice as likely to die from accidental opioid overdoses as non-veterans, according to a 2011 study of accidental poisoning mortality among VA health system patients.
- Children of military members experience higher incidences of anxiety and emotional difficulties as compared to the general youth population, a 2011 RAND Corp. study on deployment impacts found.
Our troops, their families, and communities need a successful transition from military life to civilian life.
Learn more about veterans and military families.
National Guard and Reservists
National Guard and Reserve members have their own unique set of challenges. The National Guard has over 458,000 personnel serving in 3,600 communities throughout the country, according to the Adjutants General Association of the United States. While active duty members have a solid support structure when they return home to their base from deployments, which are often repeated, National Guard and Reserve members return home to civilian communities that frequently cannot relate to their military experiences. These communities may also not have as many resources to meet their behavioral health needs. Reservists are often more isolated than the Guard because they are not tied to any base in their area or state.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Efforts need to be expanded, plans need to be refreshed, and lessons learned need to be shared. At this critical time, we must all work together to improve the capacity of our civilian behavioral health service system to serve service members, veterans, and their families. This can be accomplished by ensuring providers are informed on military culture and adopting promising, best, and evidenced-based practices. Service members, veterans, and their families deserve the highest level of care that can be delivered through an easy-to-navigate, coordinated system that allows them to access quality behavioral health care in their communities.