Vets mental health services lagging

    Veterans and their families are meeting with Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter in Philadelphia today for a Veterans Day hearing about challenges such as unemployment and homelessness. Another issue bound to come up is Mental Health care for soldiers returning from the front.

    Veterans and their families are meeting with Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter in Philadelphia today for a Veterans Day hearing about challenges such as unemployment and homelessness. Another issue bound to come up is Mental Health care for soldiers returning from the front.

    Listen:

    [audio:091110msvets.mp3]

    A new survey claims that veterans still face many barriers when seeking mental health care – even though federal legislation mandated more services and better access a year ago. The survey by the National Council for Community Behavioral Health Care found that the majority of veterans face long waits for appointments.

    Edward Lowry heads the Philadelphia Veterans Multi-Service and Education Center. He says his center is trying collaborate with the Veterans Administration to provide services, but the VA is struggling with staffing shortages.

    Lowry:
    For the longest time we had two psychologists on site and a psychiatrist normally, three to five days a week, and over the last year, we lost a couple of the days that the psychiatrist was here, and we lost both of the psychologists

    Lowry says not providing services to vets now will lead to more costly problems later:

    Lowry: You know, the old saying pay me now or pay me later is in effect because we’re seeing young, recently discharged veterans out of the military less than six months showing up in the homeless population that we serve.

    Jeannie Campbell from the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare says the Veterans’ Mental Health Act is falling short on its promise to offer reliable, timely care to veterans.

    Campbell: There are so many folks who have indications for PTSD or some sort of a mental illness, that it’s going to take all of us, and we can’t continue to make the mistakes that we have made in previous wars such as the Vietnam War

    Campbell says in addition to long waits for appointments, veterans also often face long drives to get to the closest VA – especially when living in rural areas.

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