Mental Health Summit highlights mental health services, partnerships, changes through Lubbock VA
Tuesday, July 25, 2017
The Lubbock VA Clinic has doubled its staff and amped its efforts to provide adequate mental health care for veterans within the past eight years, according to Dr. Michael Lambert.
Its two biggest priorities regarding mental health have been to increase access for veterans and decrease rates of suicide among the veteran population, said Lambert, chief of mental health and behavioral services for the Amarillo VA Healthcare System.
During an annual Mental Health Summit in Lubbock hosted by the Amarillo VA Health Care System, Lambert and other officials from different divisions from the Amarillo and Lubbock VA clinics spoke about mental health services currently available to veterans through their locations, changes to those services and staff and partnerships with local veteran organizations like VetStar, Team RWB, StarCare and others.
Dr. Richard Siemens, chief of staff of the Amarillo VA, said mental health access for veterans has become more critical.
The number of veterans who seek mental health care continues to rise, increasing the demand for professionals to provide services for veterans suffering from suicidal ideations and cases of Post Traumatic Stress, he said.
“Veteran suicide is a major issue right now,” said Brittney Williamson, suicide prevention social worker with the VA clinics.
Veterans account for 20 percent of suicide deaths in the United States, she said, adding: “That says we need to do a little more.”
Lambert said changes in the Amarillo VA Health Care System have been focused on that.
He said the clinics have been working to meet demands by adding more nursing staff, actively looking for more psychiatrists and spreading out mental health resources through tele-health services.
The goal, he said, is to eliminate long waits to see mental health professionals and ensure same-day help is available, especially for those who need it.
“One of the things that I would like everybody to know is that we have got it,” Lambert said. “We do understand that it’s important for veterans to get care quickly. You cannot wait two months when you’re suicidal.”
Improving access is an integral part to helping those people, he said.
Dorothy Carskadon, a social worker and justice outreach coordinator for the Amarillo VA Health Care System, said seeking help and connecting with a counselor saved her life.
Carskadon is a survivor of the mass shooting that killed 13 people and injured more than 30 others in November 2009 at Fort Hood. She developed Post Traumatic Stress, eventually seeking mental health care through the VA.
Since the events of that day, Carskadon has been on a healing path and now helps other veterans from her office in Amarillo who might be recovering from their own traumatic experiences.
During her presentation at the summit, Carskadon talked about her symptoms of PTS.
A counselor helped her work through reenactment and avoidance symptoms, she said. Through that care, she learned ways to keep her past from becoming overwhelming, she said.
Carskadon said she uses those learned skills regularly and helps other veterans, too.
Williamson said rveterans or loved ones who reach out to the VA will be connected to the care they need.
Carskadon said seeking help is key to moving forward.
“You want to enjoy life,” Carskadon said. “All veterans deserve to enjoy life. It’s really about going and getting the help that you need.”
Source: Lubbock Avalanche Journal