KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

VA Plans Big Boost In Mental Health Staff

The Department of Veterans Affairs will increase its corps of mental health professionals to try to cope with the increased demand from vets of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

The New York Times: Veterans Dept. Will Increase Mental Health Staffing
The Department of Veterans Affairs announced on Thursday that it plans to hire about 1,600 additional psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and other mental health clinicians in an effort to reduce long wait times for services at many veterans medical centers. ... The announcement comes as the department is facing intensified criticism for delays in providing psychological services to veterans at some of its major medical centers (Dao, 4/19).

USA Today: Veterans Affairs To Get 10% Hike In Mental Health Workers
The agency treats 1.3 million veterans for mental health problems, including nearly 400,000 who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are 10,000 new patients with post-traumatic stress disorder checking in at hospitals every three months, according to VA data (Zoroya, 4/19).

Modern Healthcare: VA Expanding Mental Health Workforce
The increase follows growing alarm in Congress about the impact on veterans' health of lengthening wait times for such care. The department will add about 1,600 nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers, as well as about 300 support staff, to its 20,590-member mental health staff (Daly, 4/19).

The Associated Press: VA To Add About 1,900 To Mental Health Staff 
The mental well-being of U.S. veterans has been a critical area of concern in recent years, especially amid reports showing high suicide rates and long wait times for those seeking treatment. A VA survey released last fall, for instance, reported that nearly 40 percent of the 272 mental health providers surveyed said they could not schedule a new patient for an appointment in their own clinic within the VA-mandated window of 14 days, and 70 percent said they lacked adequate space and staff (Tucker, 4/19).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: VA Responds To Iraq, Afghan Vets By Adding Mental Health Workers
The VA will allocate funds from the current budget to 21 VA service networks across the country this month to begin immediate recruiting. The announcement of the increase comes a week before the expected release of a VA inspector general report on long wait times for VA mental health care (Brunswick, 4/19).

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