The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

June 13, 2013

Local VA hires mental health staff

STAFF REPORT
Commercial-News

DANVILLE — The Department of Veterans Affairs has met the goal to hire 1,600 new mental health professionals. At the Veterans Affairs Illiana Health Care System, 13 mental health professionals have been hired.

The hirings are part of an August 2012 executive order to improve access to mental health services for veterans, service members and military families.

“I am proud of the hard work our staff has completed to bring these new staff members on board,” Illiana Director Emma Metcalf said. “We are not slowing our efforts however, and will continue to actively recruit for any vacant mental health positions for the future so veterans will get the care they need.

“Our goal is to not only provide access to care but integrate mental health services with other clinical programs and services. In addition, case management and ensuring continuity of care across all programs will be enhanced.”

As of May 31, nationwide, the VA has hired a total of 1,607 mental health clinical providers to meet the goal of 1,600 new mental health professionals outlined in the executive order. Also, the VA has hired 2,005 mental health clinical providers to fill existing vacancies.

“Meeting this hiring milestone significantly enhances our ability to improve access to care for those veterans seeking mental health services and demonstrates our continued commitment to the health and well-being of the men and women who have served the nation,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki said in a news release. “Meeting this goal is an important achievement, but we recognize that we must continue to increase access to the quality mental health care veterans have earned and deserve.”

The VA provides a full range of comprehensive mental health services across the country. In Fiscal Year 2012, more than 1.3 million veterans received specialized mental health care from the VA. This number has risen each year from 927,052 in Fiscal Year 2006.

In addition to hiring more mental health professionals, the VA is expanding the use of innovative technology to serve veterans in rural or underserved areas. The VA expects to increase the number of Veterans receiving care from tele-mental health services in fiscal year 2013, and has increased the number of Vet Centers, which provide readjustment counseling and referral services from 233 in 2008 to 300 in 2012.

In November 2011, the VA launched an award-winning, national public awareness campaign called Make the Connection, which is aimed at reducing the stigma associated with seeking mental health care and informing veterans, their families, friends, and members of their communities about the VA resources. More information on Make the Connection can be found at www.maketheconnection.net.

FYI

Mental health professionals interested in seeking employment with the Department of Veterans Affairs can obtain information at www.vacareers.va.gov.

Veterans and their families interested in learning more about the mental health services provided by VA can go to www.mentalhealth.va.gov.