Tuesday, June 19, 2012

VA beefing up mental health services in southeast Louisiana

Posted By on Tue, Jun 19, 2012 at 9:44 PM

The VA is beefing up its mental health services for veterans in need of care and in anticipation of active troops returning from war.
  • Photo courtesy U.S. Army
  • The VA is beefing up its mental health services for veterans in need of care and in anticipation of active troops returning from war.

Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System (SLVHCS) is recruiting 14 mental health clinicians and three support workers to expand services to veterans in the New Orleans area. The hirings are part of a federal move to add 1,600 mental health practitioners and 300 support personnel to U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) facilities across the country. SLVHCS currently has about 125 employees serving local veterans.

VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki says he expects most of the new workers to be hired locally in the next six months, with some hard-to-fill positions taking longer. The additional staff, he says, will allow the VA to reach thousands of additional veterans who are suffering from mental illnesses. The SLVHCS center already provides individualized care, readjustment counseling, and immediate crisis services; additional staff is expected to allow facilities across the country to expand into cutting-edge research for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, as well as exploring alternative therapies.

The move comes six months after the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) announced in December 2011 that the DOD was making a strong commitment to ameliorating an escalating rate of suicide among active and veteran service members. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia, the DOD’s top enlisted leader, announced the focus on mental health interventions in December 2011, shortly after the Center for a New American Security released a report that said every day 18 veterans — one every 80 minutes — end their own lives. Rates of suicide among active service personnel also are high, the report said, a problem the VA says it is addressing through intervention and education. The report concluded that suicide is a threat to America’s all-volunteer force.

For information about open positions here or at VA centers elsewhere, visit www.va.careers.va.gov or www.usajobs.gov. Veterans who need mental health care can visit www.va.gov, www.veteranscrisisline.net, call the crisis line at (800) 273-8255 (push 1) or text 838255.

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