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Vets Struggle to Get Counseling/Substance Abuse Treatment

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U.S. veterans face major barriers to getting mental health and substance abuse treatment, according to a survey released Tuesday by the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare.

The findings come a year after the Veterans Mental Health Act was signed into law. The act requires the VA to partner with community behavioral health centers to increase capacity and expand mental health services to include marriage and family counseling.

The survey of council members across the United States identified problems that prevent veterans from getting treatment, including:

* Access to Care: Nearly two-thirds of respondents said veterans and their families endure long delays to get initial appointments for crisis situations and have excessive waits between appointments.
* Long Distances: Many veterans must travel long distances to the VA or a military base. For those in rural areas, travel times can be as long as five hours. Others lack access to a vehicle or public transportation, or may be unable to drive or take public transportation because of physical and mental limitations.
* Stigma: Many veterans believe that seeking treatment from the VA or military will be noted in their personnel records, harm their careers and label them as "weak" or "crazy."
* Lack of Family Involvement: The Act includes marriage and family counseling, but few veterans' family members are involved in treatment. These services are either not being provided or haven't been widely promoted.

"We don't fault the VA for these problems, but we are concerned that veterans and their families are not receiving the services they need in a timely manner," Jeannie Campbell, the National Councils executive vice president and a veteran, said in a news release. "We hope the VA sees our community behavioral health organizations as resources to extend and supplement their mental health and substance use treatment services."

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