Same Day Mental Health services for Veterans

June is PTSD Awareness Month


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Reaching out for help can be difficult, especially for a mental health concern. The military cultural standards of ‘never surrender’ and self-reliant ‘can do’ attitude, so integral on the battlefield, are ingrained in every Veteran. Yet, this defining character asset from military service often presents a barrier to Veterans seeking treatment. The Department of Veteran Affairs understands the difficulty many Veterans have asking for assistance and are ready to Make the Connection. VA has committed to be there for Veterans in their time of need–The Moment Recovery Begins. 

In 2018, 1.7 million Veterans received VA mental health services.

In 2018, 1.7 million Veterans received VA mental health services.

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie has made Same-Day 24/7 access to emergency mental health care the top clinical priority for VA staff. “It’s important that all Veterans, their family and friends know that help is easily available.” Now, all 172 VA Medical Centers (VAMCs) provide Same-Day Mental Health Care services. If a Veteran is in crisis or has another need for mental health care right away, he or she will receive immediate attention from a health care professional.

Options for Same-Day Services:

  • An in-person appointment delivered by a provider or another appropriate clinical staff member,
  • A telephone call with a provider or another appropriate clinical staff member,
    • Via smart phone,
    • Via telehealth, and or
    • Secure messaging.

Every VA health care facility stands ready to provide high-quality mental health care and suicide prevention resources to Veterans through a full spectrum of outpatient, inpatient and telemental health services.

Among them, the Michael E. DeBakey VA medical center in Houston, Texas recently opened a brand-new mental health facility and hired 90 additional staff. The expansive building houses outpatient mental health programs such as the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Program, neuropsychology, Veterans Justice Outreach, behavioral health, and marriage and family counseling.

Carine Meyer, LCSW; Audrey Dawkins-Oliver, LCSW; and Dr. Lisa Robinson, a psychologist in our PTSD program, at the new Mental Health Facility.

Carine Meyer, LCSW; Audrey Dawkins-Oliver, LCSW; and Dr. Lisa Robinson, a psychologist in the PTSD program, at the new Mental Health Facility on the campus of the Michael E. DeBakey VAMC.

Medical Center Director Francisco Vazquez, spoke clearly about the new facility, “We are going to offer world-class care to our Veterans and provide it to them in a Veteran-centric manner. Our new mental health building is a visible testament to our commitment and dedication to our Veterans. We want all Veterans to know that top quality care is here and easy to access.”

At the Martinsburg VA medical center in West Virginia, VA staff continue to provide Same-Day Mental Health Service. Any Veteran arriving at the facility that requests immediate mental health care is quickly seen by a triage team consisting of social workers and psychologists. They talk to the Veteran and try to understand his or her needs. After providing a clinical assessment, staff work together with the Veteran to determine the best avenues for care.

Social Work Executive Monique Smith, beams with pride when discussing her social work staff’s availability to Veterans. “Any veteran feeling distressed or needing to talk to someone, our social workers are available 24/7,” she says.  Social workers are available during regular business hours, have regular shifts in the Emergency Department, and are on-call around the clock. Also, each treatment decision made by her team, is reviewed by her personally. “With these processes, no Veteran will fall through the cracks.”

In addition to same-day mental health service at all VA facilities, the Veterans Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255) is available 24/7/365. Whether through a phone call, text message or confidential online chat session, specially trained responders are ready to help and show they care. 

Veterans have immediate access to mental health care through several resources from VA, however, they need your help too. Many people don’t know how to support the Veteran in their life who is going through a difficult time. Sometimes a simple act of kindness can be the difference.

June is PTSD Awareness Month. Growing public understanding of PTSD and spreading the word that PTSD treatment works takes all of us. If you’d like to join our efforts, we ask that you complete the Raise PTSD Awareness Pledge (PDF) and share the Veterans Crisis Line with Veterans you know and your contacts.

Author

Steven Clipp

Steve Clipp joined VA in 2017 with the White House/VA Hotline and is currently on detail as a communications specialist with the Veteran Experience Office. Steve, a Navy Veteran, served as an electronics technician in Fighter Squadron 31 (VF 31-F/14s) on-board the USS Abraham Lincoln. Using the GI Bill, he graduated from Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications.

Comments

  1. Lyle Summerfield    

    I have had good results with my care at the VA. I go to the Aleda Lutz VA here in Saginaw Michigan. Have been with this system for 10 years now. They have a mental health bldg off sight of the main bldg, about 1 1/2 miles away, and have a shuttle service from the main campus to and from the Annex, which is the mental health bldg. My Doctor is in Traverse City Mi., so it’s done by video contact. This works for me. I have PTSD and depression, get my meds OK from VA. I try to be as nice as I can, because the Doctor listens to what I have to say. I’m no saint, but I’m open to what she says. Jesus is Lord!, ask and you shall receive!

  2. H. J. Holmes    

    After 36 years of military service, Coast Guard and Army, upon retirement, I had a true calling to go for my Master’s Degree in Human Developmental Counseling, I felt the calling was to work with and for my veteran brothers and sisters. From what I’m told, male counselors are almost as rare as unicorns, and veteran male counselors are even more rare. So, here I sit, 90% disability rating, 58 years old, all my years of service, fully licensed, nationally certified, and cannot find a job. Yes, I did apply through the VA, and yes, I am willing to relocate, and I submitted my documentation and here I sit.

    Due to my state’s licensure requirements I am not able to open my own practice until I have two years of supervised counseling and I cannot find a job except for addiction treatment centers which, after working for a year in my internship, are all about the money and less about the clients. So, my fellow vets who are truly suffering, I am out here for you, but am not able to, so I apologize to you, because I pursued this for the right reason – all of you.

    1. W. Fey    

      Hello, Mr. Holmes. I will soon be in a similar boat. I am an Army combat veteran. Age 51 (female) getting my MA in Clinical Counseling now. Hope to be an LPCC in a few years. My understanding is that the VA only uses LSW (Licensed Social Workers) for veteran mental health care. There is some movement in the Counseling profession to advocate for LPCC to be allowed to provide counseling services to veterans, but I have no idea if/when this will open up.
      I will be pursuing my licensing requirements through addiction/jail counseling because as you say, there is a need, and there are many jobs available. I also think that, as a veteran, I can relate to the heavy-hitting issues that these clients will face. I am hoping that by the time I am fully licensed, there will be some progress in this area so that I can help fellow veterans. If not, there are other people who need my talents (and yours). Semper Gumby! And good for you for handing in there as a lone male in the field. We have only half a dozen men in my school and about 60 females. We need the male perspective and skill set as a counter balance and supplement to the conversation and practice.

  3. S Asman    

    why are all these new available Services listed Not seem available in the Gulf Coast Heath care System-Serving the Gulf Coast States ?
    This all seems to be just some “show and tell” Pictures looking good only on paper to make the higher Management look good .Trying to fool fellow Veterans and public rather than Actually trying to HELP Fellow VETS and Treat them “with Dignity and Respect !!!

  4. Stanley Marcellus hawkins    

    what about non military spouses that deal with veteran ptsd and night terreors???? We to need mental health….do spouses matter?
    Toby Hawkins
    wife of disabled veteran in Durham nc

  5. Raymond D Babcock    

    Why are Veterans mental? For me the VA in Topeka Kansas sent me to a private hospital. They refuse to pay the bill.

  6. Darrell L Kelly    

    You may want to tell the Cedar Park Texas facility about this because the current wait for any kind of mental health services is 6 weeks when you get a half hour television conference with someone who won’t even say where they are..

    1. steve cornell    

      i was made to see the VA mental health. court order they did not listen or care they just said i had ADJUSTMENT DISORDER. i guess not wanting to live next to crack head and drug dealers is not an adjustment problem. not a standard of living. GO MA and the horrific Boston VA. boston va is more likely to talk you into suicide then out of it. 4 hour wait for blood work and you have to then answer have you planned on committing suicide. i so badly wanted to respond” will it help to get the blood work done faster” not i am not allowed to eat before doing blood work. so the 2 hour drive to the va and then the 1 hour wait for doctor to order the blood work then the 4 hour wait for the blood to be taken. i got up at 6:00 got at the va at 8:00 did not leave till 13:00 and did not get a meal when i got home at 15:00. i was dead inside with hunger. i think they want to starve me to death.

  7. Judy Jones    

    I have personally seen changes at the VA in Columbia, SC for Post 911 veterans. I took my daughter there yesterday at about 3 PM, feeling we were too close to closing for the day for them to see her without going to the ER. To my surprise, they saw her and also within less than 24 hours, has her already set up for other appointments she needs in less than 2 weeks. Everyone we came in contact with were more than helpful. I am extremely happy with the changes I witnessed and commend SC for taking care of our veterans. I have been in the VA system with different family members for over 40 years and have seen all the good, bad and ugly. Wonderful work, William Bryan Jennings Dorn VA.

  8. helpveterans    

    Mental health in the VA is terrible. I spoke with the VA regarding mental health and I have yet to have gotten help from them. I keep getting a breathing app pushed on me. With I do get an appointment with a doctor and express my issues, I don’t leave feeling better. I feel more aggravated and angry for having to bring up situations for not result. The VA system is failing with mental health. Just allow veterans to see a mental health professional of their choice. Or let them participate in a program they choose. I’d rather talk with doctors that care to help and not see you as a part-time pay check or something.

  9. Jimmy Vining    

    I’ve been getting emails from the VA about the new changes in care options. They are mostly self promoting propaganda. Our politicians keep voting for more money for the VA to get votes for themselves. The VA needs to be cut in size and funding. It’s a bloated government agency that is unmanageable like so many others. It’s not getting better. It’s just getting bigger and less manageable.

    1. Linda Louise Lado    

      Jimmy I totally agree with your comments about the
      propaganda perpetuated in the VA. I have been abused by the VA for the past 25 years!

      I am a retired officer and a mental health professional.
      The veterans’ Mission Act is a new band-aid for a very broken system. Veterans need to find out the performance ratings of their respective VA. I live in Arizona where both the Phoenix and Tucson VA are a one star facility. They are the worst of the worst. I
      am surprised I have survived so long.

  10. T yates    

    I’ve been trying to get a hold of my doc for three weeks. The first time i called they actually answered and said she wasn’t in and hung up. Since then all i get is a machine and leave messages all i want to do is renew my meds. Now I’ve been out for a couple days coming off duloxetine cold turkey sucks FYI

  11. Herman v. Critchfield    

    Types of home care info..her
    Herman Critchfield

  12. Josh    

    Please help hire more staff for the Central Alabama Veterans Affairs: Tuskegee and Montgomery Alabama. Severely understaffed.

  13. Cynthia Holbert    

    I’m a veteran. I served from 1972-1974. I’m deeply disappointed in the mental health clinic at the VA facility in Montgomery, Alabama. A couple years ago, the doctor I saw suddenly retired. Her name was Dr Tabino. After that I began seeing Dr Shah. I had an appointment to see her in January 2019. I received a call from mental health cancelling my appointment because Dr Shah was unavailable and they didn’t know when she would be available again. I called several times and Dr Shah was still unavailable. I called in May 2019. Dr Shah is still unavailable. What I remember being told is they had a doctor seeing patients half days and they were supposed to have a full time doctor the following week. I don’t know if a new doctor has been assigned. I’ve found another psychiatrist in Montgomery and using my own insurance. I sincerely hope the Montgomery VA facility now has a full time psychiatrist. I doubt I’ll use the mental health facility again.

  14. Mrs. Paula Blouin-Briggs    

    Thank you Honorable Robert Wilkie for fighting for all Veteran’s from all War Era’s to present. It has been an honor at one time being a military spouse and still being married to the same man that fought for our country to support our family!! Thank you for listening and putting Faith to Work in action with the support of all 130 Congressmen/women signing off on the Collective Bargaining Rights of Federal Workers at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs!! God Bless you and we will continue to pray and uplift All people everywhere in Jesus Name!! Our Family Thanks You!!

  15. Kevin G Wittbrodt    

    Be aware PTSD is a “clinical diagnosis” done by a Licenced Practicing Psychologist or Psychiatrist, in other words “a doctor” please SW’s are not able to do this, nor is the general public. Don’t go around thinking that every veteran is suffering from PTSD. Treatment in this case is under the care of these doctors and is actually rarer than many think.

    Most veterans suffering from mental health issues are actually suffering from depression, alcohol or chemical dependency, family, and financial problems.

    Let’s not further the stereotype?

    1. Dawn Staten Drakeford    

      Licensed Professional Counselors are mental health clinicians; we can diagnose and treat, as well.

      1. Dawn Staten Drakeford    

        This is Dawn again. I neglected to add that Licensed Professional Counselors are Board Certified. In order to provide services LPCs have to take and a pass board exam. The National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) offers two board exams prior to granting a license; National Clinical Mental Health Counselors Exam (NCMHCE) and National Counselors Exam (NCE).

  16. Keith Alan Markovitch    

    How nice so after I drive 2 1/2 hours I can talk to a mental health provider. Good deal but I guess it beats not getting a call back when trying get hearing appointment I’m eligible for new hearing aides but they don’t answer the phone or return a call after message may be I should drive all that Wyoming and hope in one hand and …..

  17. Tina Greenlee    

    This is somewhat of a joke as I have been trying to get a PCP and Mental Health appointment for over a month now.

  18. P. Dycus    

    I wish someone would explain this to the Columbus, Ga, VA CBOC. I was having a very difficult time late last year, and was taken to the “emergency mental health” provider. All he did was ask if I was suicidal, then he set me up for an appointment to see a psychiatrist, which was at least two months later. I needed help THEN, not in TWO MONTHS out. These changes may help a select population of veterans, but it didn’t help me when I needed it. I still haven’t received the help I need. Thanks V.A.

  19. Michael Johnson    

    Perrypoint VAMHC needs to read this!!!
    They will tell you there booked and give you an appointment 2mths out or refer you to the crises hotline….

  20. Rafael    

    I wrote this letter to patient advocate, Congresswoman, and Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
    I have not heard anything back! Will anyone take action. This is a HUGE problem at VA and frustrating veterans.

    To: Patient Advocate
    VA Dallas, Texas

    From: Rafael Blanes
    Veteran – USAR

    Date: 05/25/2919

    Re: Formal Complaint – Treatment with Kilynda V. Ray PHD Psychologist

    On February 25, 2019, I was seen by this psychologist as scheduled for my mental health conditions through the Diamond Team.

    I have seen this psychologist 2 times before and was never given anything to help and figured out how to cope and deal with my situations. NOT even a single coping mechanism, verbally or written.

    After administrating a “PTSD” test, she comes to the conclusion that I am exaggerating symptoms to get financial benefits.
    On July 3, 1989 I was a victim of a sexual assault during AIT at Aberdeen Proving Grounds Maryland by an African American female soldier.

    On her notes she also said that she validated my experience, which she never did! If saying that “this has happened to many people and they just have to live with it”, that is NOT validation.
    I felt that she did not believe me and showed no worries about my emotional health.

    Also, on her notes, she that she was done with my treatment and was going to send me to another provider and that I was going to be contacted within a week.

    This never happened!! She or anyone from the Mental Health Team has contacted me.

    It has been 3 months and I have called Dr. Kilynda Ray on 2 occasions to schedule an appointment with her and she has TOTALLY IGNORED IT.
    Great way to treat a Veteran with Mental Health issues.

    This is exactly the unprofessional people working for the federal government to just collect a check and have benefits.

    Nobody should be treated like this. This is TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE.

    I needed help and VA failed!!

    I had to go out of VA to get the help I need.

    I am getting treatment from the Steven A. Cohen Group, and from the first visit, I was heard, they gave me homework, and treated me with professionalism, dignity and love.

    I will recommend this place to all veterans I know.

    Mrs. Kilynda Ray shouldn’t be seen patients at ALL!! I don’t care if she is a Harvard graduate. That is just unacceptable treatment and worst to put it in writing.

    I have contacted my Congresswoman and we will do whatever it takes to have a decent psychologist treating patients they way they should.

    Sincerely,
    Rafael Blanes

  21. Neil lynch    

    I am 100% disabled and served my country as a sniper for 7 long fucking years not to include my Drill Sergeant time or time on trail as we call it. They try to debrief us and fail miserably. Not a single time I have been involved with the VA have I ever had same day mental health. I have served my country with pride. I have sacrificed all for you.

    SSG NEIL LYNCH JR
    UNITED STATES ARY RETIRED
    .

  22. Wayne Howard    

    I want to help; I am an AF Veteran. Educated and believe in the system. Please tell me how.

    Qualifications on request.

  23. Jeffrey Shaver    

    This is an absolute lie regarding Martinsburg VAMC and same day care. I was there just last month and asked to talk to someone because they have yet to replace the mental health doctor at the Harrisonburg Clinic whom retired 10 months ago and they just turned me away without a care. Martinsburg continues to fail miserably to include not paying bills for veterans that they sent to outside VA Care via the Choice program leaving veterans without any care at all. These are just a few small examples.

  24. Dave Hebert    

    Steve, I’m a veteran (USA, Korea, 1970-71) and have written a book that may be of interest to disabled vets. It features 365 quotes from our founders, paraphrase in “Plain English.” I like the idea of an audio version but don’t have the means to produce one. Is that something the VA would help with?

  25. iminathi    

    Thanks Robert Wilkie and this is certainly an improvement in VA

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