In its Public Policy Update, dated June 28, 2007 The National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare urges support for Legislation to Expand Mental Health Care Access for Veterans Through Partnerships with Community providers.
"On June 12, Representatives Ciro Rodriguez [D-TX], Patrick Kennedy [D-RI], Steve Pear [R-NM], and Albio Sires [D-NJ] introduced a bill to improve access to mental health services for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The bill includes all of the elements of the appropriations request that the National Council and Mental Health America have been pursuing in Congress in recent months, including a provision to obligate the department of Veterans affairs to fund the creation of service partnerships with community mental health and addictions agencies to expand access to mental health services for National Guard members and reservists living in rural America. The bill is a companion measure to S 38, introduced in the Senate by Senators Pete Domenici [R-NM] and Barack Obama [D-IL]on May 23.
The National Council urges all members to contact their representatives and ask them to become co-sponsors of the Veterans Mental Health Outreach and Access Act [HR2689].
The bill would authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs [VA] to develop and implement a comprehend national program to increase the availability of mental health support so that veterans affected by combat related mental health problems do not go without the care they need. In remote areas of the country in which the VA determines there is inadequate access to a VA medical center, the Veterans Mental Health Outreach and Access Act directs the Secretary of the VA to contract with community mental health care centers to provide treatment and support services and readjustment counseling. All-contract providers would be required to hire a qualified peer specialist and have its clinicians participate in a training program to ensure services are tailored to meet the specialized needs of combat-affected veterans.
The bill also calls on the Secretary of VA to develop a national program to train returning service members for positions as peer outreach workers and support specialists. The bill places particular emphasis on providing services for National Guardsmen and Reserve veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. These civilian soldiers often return from combat duty and immediately resume civilian life and they may not have adequate access to readjustment services or VA facilities. The legislation includes provisions to extend counseling service to veterans families, who may also experience issues with readjustment after their loved-ones have returned from deployment."
Several veterans’ service organizations have sent letters in support of this legislation:
Veterans of Foreign Wars [VFW]
Vietnam Veterans of America [VVA]
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans [IAVA]
Wounded Warrior Project [WWP]
Disabled American Veterans [DAV]