The order instructs that any veteran with suicidal thoughts be seen by a mental-health professional within 24 hours, a standard already set by the VA but rarely met, McCloskey reports. In many areas of the U.S., psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers are sparse. To address this, the order directs the VA to partner with the Department of Health and Human Services to utilize community services to help meet demand. The agency will also create 15 pilot sites in underserved areas by contracting with local facilities, and it must create a plan for rural areas, which could include a mental health professional sharing program, McCloskey reports.
The VA put together a 21-person team in June to begin addressing these issues, and it has until June 2013 to hire just under 2,000 additional mental health staffers and the issues with pay, loan repayment, scholarships and partnerships with community-based providers to lure more mental health employees. (Read more)