Addressing the Disabled American Veterans group, President Obama Saturday offered details on his National Research Action Plan to prevent and treat traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Much of the president’s initiative on TBI and mental health has to do with the treatment of veterans, as his administration claims that meeting the health care needs of vets and their families is one of its highest priorities. I hope that is the truth.
A year ago, Obama signed an executive order directing the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Defense, and Health and Human Services — in coordination with other federal agencies — to take steps to ensure that veterans, service members and their families receive proper mental health services and support they need.
The president unveiled the many moving parts of the administration’s comprehensive approach “to improving our ability to prevent, diagnose, and treat brain injuries and mental health issues earlier and better.”
This includes an aggressive strategy to reduce military and veteran suicides — which have skyrocketed — and to improve the ability to diagnose and treat post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and TBI. As part of the Plan, the Defense Department, the VA, National Institutes of Health, and Department of Education have committed to coordinate and share data and other resources to accelerate research progress.
The administration also announced that the University of Texas Health Science Center-San Antonio and Virginia Commonwealth University will each lead new research consortia with more than $100 million of support from the Defense Department and VA to help better recognize and treat PTSD and the links between TBI and other mental health issues.
In his fiscal 2014 budget, Obama committed nearly $7 billion – a 7.2 percent increase above the 2013 enacted level — to continue VA’s focus on expanding and transforming mental health services for veterans to ensure accessible and patient-centered care.
In fact, in June the president said that the VA met its hiring goal to increase its capacity to provide timely mental health services to veterans. It hired 1,669 mental health professionals and is on track to hire an additional 800 peer-to-peer specialists by Dec. 31.
The VA is also stepping up its effort to end military suicides, in part by increasing the capacity of its Veterans Crisis Line by 50 percent and training all new staff members so that veterans in crisis can readily reach help. To date, the crisis line has made over 29,000 rescues of actively suicidal veterans, according to the White House. The Veteran Crisis Line coordinates with the Defense Department to provide assistance to active duty service members.
The administration said that it is using partnerships to reduce the stigma associated with seeking treatment for behavioral health issues. As part of this, “Make the Connection” will be a campaign run by the Department of Veterans Affairs to create ways for veterans and their families to connect with other veterans.
This effort has a new tagline, “Stand by Them,” a
The VA and Defense Department have a joint theme, “Stand by Them,” to encourage veterans, service members and their families and friends to connect with the VA for confidential support.
Obama’s big new plan also includes the VA launching a comprehensive program to identify, screen and treat all veterans with TBI, and to ensure that they receive patient-centered, integrated care and benefits.
Obama signed an amendment to the Americans with Disabilities Act which allows individuals with PTSD and TBI to more easily seek legal protections as they look for and participate in employment opportunities, the White House said.
The VA has directed its medical centers nationwide to organize more than 150 mental health summits with community partners, including local government officials, community-based organizations, and veteran service organizations. The aim is to help vets and their family members through collaboration between the VA and community–based group.
With the help of the First Lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, 135 medical schools have committed to exchanging leading research on PTSD and TBI and will also train future physicians to better understand veteran health issues and needs.
Over 150 state and national nursing organizations and over 650 nursing schools have committed to ensure the nation’s 3 million nurses are prepared to meet the health needs of veterans and their families by educating the current and future nurses of America to have a better understanding of PTSD and TBI.