NAMI Testifies at Senate Veterans Hearing: More Outreach and Mental Health Services Needed, One-Third of Returning Troops Face Mental Health Problems

Mar 03 2010

Washington, D.C.—  Vietnam era combat pilot and national board member of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Clarence Jordan testified at a Senate hearing today calling for better outreach and coordination of mental health care by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

"VA must do a better job of reaching out and making it services known," said Jordan, a 15-year Navy veteran who now serves as director of recovery and resiliency services for ValueOptions Behavioral Health Services.

A chronicle of Jordan's battle with depression appeared in Heart & Soul magazine in June 2007.

"I struggled for years with mental illness when I was active duty. I know now I was not alone. I knew next to nothing about the VA and its mental health programs." He said the VA sees about 25 percent of 23 million veterans and an even smaller fraction for mental health needs.

The RAND Corporation reports that up to one-third of all military personnel, including National Guard and reserve troops, comes home from Iraq and Afghanistan with mental health challenges, including PTSD, depression and other serious disorders.

NAMI endorsed the independent VA budget for FY2011 developed by veterans organizations and called on Congress to:

  • Spur implementation of the VA's "National Mental Health Strategic Plan" to reform and expand services.
  • Require the VA to survey over 60,000 veterans who have contacted the National Crisis Hotline (800) 273-TALK to determine how well the VA has been able to meet their needs.
  • Direct funding for suicide prevention programs authorized by Congress last year for returning National Guard troops—and encourage cooperative funding agreements with states for mental health services for National Guard units.
  • Support diversionary courts for veterans with mental health problems, especially combat veterans. Jordan said he owes "a debt of gratitude" to a judge who once gave him a choice between treatment or jail, after he "bounced from one job to another and city to city," using alcohol and drugs until getting into trouble with the law.
  • NAMI provides a free, 12-week Family-to-Family ;education program in about 100 VA medical centers helping family members of veterans to better understand and cope with mental illness.

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