By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has recently announced that it has met the goal to hire 1,600 new mental health professionals outlined in President Obama’s August 31, 2012, Executive Order.
The program will improve access to Mental Health Services for veterans, service members, and military families.
Toward this goal, Oklahoma City VA Medical Center has hired 19 new mental health professionals.
Daniel L. Marsh, Medical Center Director said, “I am proud of the hard work our staff has completed to bring these new staff members on board. We are not slowing our efforts and will continue to actively recruit for any vacant mental health positions for the future so Veterans will get the care they need.”
As of May 31, VA has hired a total of 1,607 mental health clinical providers. Additionally, VA has hired 2,005 mental health clinical providers to fill existing vacancies.
Affairs Eric K. Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans “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.
“Meeting this goal is an important achievement, but we recognize that we must continue to increase access to quality mental health care Veterans have earned and deserve.”
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.
Barbara K. Masters, MD, DFAPA, Chief, Mental Health Services at OKC VAMC said, “The mission of the Mental Health Service at the VA Medical Center, Oklahoma City is to provide excellent care for all eligible veterans, provide education for residents and medical students, and offer staff multiple opportunities for research.
“Our treatment philosophy is a biopsychosocial model which is utilized throughout different psychiatric services addressing the mental health needs of patients.”
Examples of services include acute inpatient treatment and specialty programs for identified populations, as well as a wide array of outpatient services that promote aftercare at the hospital and in the outlying communities.
During the past year, VA’s Psychology Service has continued to work closely with Mental Health Service (Psychiatry) and other services in the Medical Center to provide excellence in clinical care, education and research.
Oklahoma City Psychiatrist Dr. Ana Maria Bautista-Gutierrez said, “As a new psychiatrist in the VA’s mental health clinic, I am looking forward to serving Oklahoma’s veterans who depend on VA for these vital mental health services.”
VA is expanding the use of innovative technology to serve veterans in rural and underserved areas. Expecting the number of veterans receiving care from telemental health services to rise, VA has increased the number of Vet Centers to 300.
Each center provides readjustment counseling and referral services.
Dr. Allison Howe-McNeil said, “In my new role as a telehealth psychologist, I join a dedicated team focusing on providing easier access to care for our rural veterans. The VA’s telemedicine technology allows veterans to participate in mental health treatment in many of our community outpatient clinics.”
Mental health professionals interested in seeking employment with the Department of Veterans Affairs should visit www.vacareers.va.gov.
In 2011, VA launched a national public awareness campaign called “Make the Connection,” aimed at reducing the stigma associated with seeking mental health care and informing veterans, their families, friends, and community members about VA resources. To learn more visit www.maketheconnection.net.
In order to support the rehabilitation and recovery of every veteran with a mental illness, VA has identified recovery as a guiding principle for its entire mental health service delivery system. VA believes recovery is a journey that involves developing hope, self-direction, empowerment, respect and peer support.
To learn more about VA mental health services, visit www.mentalhealth.va.gov. For more information about the Oklahoma City VA Medical Center, visit www.oklahoma.va.gov.
VA hires 1,600 Mental Health professionals expanding access to care and outreach efforts OKC VA Medical Center adds 19 new Mental Health professionals
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