Tell Congress to Help New Veterans Keep the Mental Health Medications They Need!

vlad_g - DPCWhen someone is in treatment for a mental illness, it is common to go through several different trials of medication until they find the one that helps them feel better. It can take time to find a medicine that works for you. The slightest change could set someone back or even cause further illness. Now imagine if you are a service member who has found that right combination. You are feeling better and your medication is working. The way things stand now, if you decide to transition out of service and into veteran status, your medication might not transfer with you.

This is unacceptable. 

With an alarmingly high suicide rate of 22 veterans dying each day and countless others struggling, we simply cannot allow for delays in treatment, endless appeals or the risk of being switched away from a proven effective medication for serious conditions such as depression, anxiety or psychosis. Our veterans deserve better.

Write a letter to your congressman, ask them to co-sponsor H.R. 2123 the Enhancing Veterans Access to Treatment Act. Tell them it is not ok to take away a medication that works for a service member simply because they transitioned out of service.

Take Action

Thank you for advocating for passage of this important bill!

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House Passes Bill Aimed at Improving Psychiatric Care in the VA

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Photo Credit: enterlinedesign | DPC

From Psychiatric News Alert: APA hailed passage this week by the House of Representatives of legislation that would help the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) attract and retain psychiatrists and improve the agency’s suicide-prevention efforts.

The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act is named in honor of an Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran and suicide-prevention advocate who took his own life in 2011. The bill sailed through the House in December, but it stalled in the Senate after a retiring senator, Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), objected to the cost.

Said APA President Paul Summergrad, M.D.:

“Too often the men and women who serve our country do not have timely access to the mental health care they need and deserve. Losing 22 veterans a day to suicide should move us all to immediate action. APA strongly supports the Clay Hunt SAV Act, which will make a real difference in the lives of many veterans by improving access to much needed mental health care…. We now ask that the Senate adopt this important legislation for our veterans.”

The bill would establish a pilot project encouraging more psychiatrists to choose a career with the VHA by offering medical school loan repayments on par with other government agencies and private organizations. Current policy makes it difficult for the VHA to compete with employers that offer employment incentives, such as medical school loan repayment. The bill would authorize the agency to recruit at least 10 psychiatrists into the loan-repayment program each year. It would also authorize a Government Accountability Office study of pay disparities affecting psychiatrists at the VA.

A summary of the bill is posted HERE. For more information, see the Psychiatric News article, “Push for Suicide Prevention Law Hits Senate Roadblock.”

Study on Vets With Schizophrenia, Comorbid Anxiety

FROM Psychiatric News Alert: Veterans with schizophrenia and a comorbid anxiety disorder have increased rates of other disorders, higher psychiatric and medical hospitalization, and increased utilization of outpatient mental health services, according to the study, “Service Utilization Among Veterans With Schizophrenia and a Comorbid Anxiety Disorder,” published in the APA journal Psychiatric Services in Advance.

Researchers from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Serious Mental Illness Treatment Resource and Evaluation Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., examined diagnostic, utilization, and medication records included in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) National Psychosis Registry. Relationships between schizophrenia and anxiety disorders were evaluated along demographic and service utilization dimensions.

During Fiscal 2011, 23.8% of 87,006 VHA patients with schizophrenia were diagnosed with a comorbid anxiety disorder; 15.2% of the sample had a posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis and 8.6% a non-PTSD anxiety disorder. The researchers found that patients without a comorbid anxiety disorder had significantly lower rates of other comorbid mental disorders than did patients with comorbid anxiety disorders. Specifically, 20.6% of patients with no anxiety disorder had depression, compared with 47.7% of those with PTSD and 46.8% of those with non-PTSD anxiety disorders. Only 3.7% of patients with no anxiety disorder had a personality disorder, compared with 11.2% of those with PTSD and 10.8% of those with non-PTSD anxiety.

“Anxiety disorders are common among individuals with schizophrenia within the VHA and appeared in this study to convey additional disability in terms of psychiatric comorbidity and the need for increased psychiatric care,” the researchers pointed out. “Future research should investigate ways to improve detection and enhance treatment provided to this population.”

For more on care of veterans with psychiatric disorders, see the Psychiatric Newsarticles, “APA Calls for Better Training to Treat Chronic Pain, Addiction Among Vets” and “Knowledge of Military Life Facilitates Vets’ MH Care.”