– A new bill before Congress proposes to have the Department of Veterans Affairs create telehealth programs at three VA centers to helps veterans access mental health services. Lawmakers
The bill targets a growing issue in the nation’s veteran ranks: an increase in mental health issues coupled with a lack of access to care, either because an appropriate facility isn’t easy to reach or providers aren’t easily available.
According to the RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research, one in every five veterans who served during the Afghanistan or Iraq crises suffers from either PTSD or depression, while a separate study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicates only half of the veterans who need help are getting it.
Connected health advocates have long lobbied for the VA – already the nation’s largest telehealth system – to make more use of telemental health. They note that veterans dealing with mental health issues are often reluctant to seek help, particularly in person, and many live in rural areas where access to care is problematic.
“For veterans who live in rural areas far from a VA facility — and there are thousands in Maine — distance is a huge barrier to receiving care,” Golden, a veteran himself, said in a press release. “That distance can be dangerous if it keeps vets from seeking care for mental health issues. Telehealth alternatives are a promising way to address this problem for rural vets, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.”
“My bill with Congressman Banks would establish a pilot program to expand remote mental health care for rural veterans, with the goal of creating nation-wide program using what we learn,” Golden added. “That would mean better care for more veterans, and more veterans who can stick close to home — and their families — to get the help they need.”