Duffy Attends Mental Health Care Conference

NGAUS Washington Report

(July 16, 2013) Pete Duffy, the NGAUS legislative director, attended as a White House invitee the Veterans and Military Family Mental Health Conference held last week in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

Highlights were a briefing by Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and a panel discussion on efforts to engage community partnerships and train the civilian medical community to better understand and address military and veteran behavioral health care needs.

NGAUS has long sought delivery of community-based mental health care for National Guard members and veterans.

Among the presenters were retired Col. Gary Yaple of the Veteran Outreach Center in New York and retired Gen. Jack Hammond of Home Base/Welcome Back Veterans, a program funded by the Boston Red Sox which provides clinical care to active and reserve-component members, veterans and their families. Both programs seek to train more community medical providers in understanding and treating military behavioral care issues.

When Duffy asked the panel and White House staff how a funding stream could be established to pay for community-based mental health providers trained to treat military-related behavioral issues, no one could provide an answer.

Duffy said later, “Unfortunately, money talks in this arena if these programs are to be real and sustained. The Guard should not have to depend for mental health care on the charity of the Boston Red Sox.”

The White House announced a series of VA-sponsored community mental health summits to be taking place over the next few months. Information can be found on the VA website, www.va.gov.