Late Breaking News
VA Veterans Crisis Line Increasing Capacity 50% by End of Year
- Categorized in: Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), News, October 2012
By Sandra Basu
WASHINGTON — In response to an executive order signed by President Barack Obama, VA will increase the capacity of its VA Veterans Crisis Line by 50% by the end of the year. It’s one of several initiatives seeking to expand suicide prevention and mental-health resources for returning veterans and troops.
“We’re going to increase the number of folks manning those crisis hotlines, so help is there when you need it most,” Obama told troops while visiting Fort Bliss in Texas in late summer. “We’re going to add even more counselors and mental-health providers. We’re launching a new awareness campaign, starting tomorrow, and I’m directing a new task force to find out what works best so we’re doing everything we can to help those in need and save lives.”
|President Barack Obama delivers remarks to the troops at Fort Bliss (official White House photo)|
According to the White House, other provisions in the executive order include:
- VA must ensure that any veteran identifying him or herself as being in crisis is able to connect with a mental-health professional or trained mental-health worker within 24 hours.
- The development of a national DoD-VA 12-month suicide prevention campaign focused on connecting veterans to mental-health services.
- VA will hire 800 peer-to-peer support counselors to help veterans support other veterans.
- HHS and VA will develop a plan so that VA and rural communities can share mental-health providers when demand is insufficient for either to support a full-time provider.
- In service areas where VA continues to have unfilled vacancies for mental-health providers or long wait times, the agency must work with HHS to establish at least 15 pilot sites where VA will contract with HHS grantees to help reduce VA mental health waiting lists.
- VA is directed to use its pay-setting authorities and other incentives to recruit, hire and place 1,600 mental-health professionals by June, 2013.
- DoD, VA, HHS and the Department of Education will develop a National Research Action Plan that will include strategies to improve early diagnosis and treatment effectiveness for TBI and PTSD.
The executive order expands on programs that have shown some success. For example, the executive order will increase capacity for the Veterans Crisis Line, which VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has said is one of VA’s most successful outreach efforts.
From its opening in July 2007 and through this past July, the crisis line received 654,901 calls, including from more than 440,000 veterans, or their family members or friends, and 8,000 active-duty troops. Its use has led to the rescue of nearly 23,000 individuals from potential suicide, according to VA.
In 2009, VA added an online chat service that has served nearly 65,000 and, in 2011, it added a texting service to reach more veterans in crisis. VA’s Crisis Line is known in DoD as the Military Crisis Line and has the same telephone number and is staffed by the same VA mental-health professionals.
The VA and DoD also already have been working to address some of the issues targeted by the executive order. Shinseki said in June that VA had hired more than 4,000 mental-health professionals in the past four years alone and plans to hire another 1,600 professionals this year, bringing the total mental health clinical staff up to almost 22,000.