Coatesville Veterans Affairs Medical Center
Partners Connecting for Veterans
This June, VA health care professionals and community partners connected for the second annual Community Mental Health Summit. At the Summit, community social service organizations, other health care providers, local government, and representatives of elected officials shared information about their offerings for Veterans and family members. Most importantly, participants leveraged their knowledge and experience toward identifying opportunities to enhance access to, and availability of mental health care for Veterans.
“We know that there are ways that we can work together to improve services for Veterans in Chester, Montgomery, and Delaware Counties,” said Associate Chief of Staff for Mental Health, Dr. Michael Gliatto. “The Summit is an excellent opportunity to exchange ideas.”
In total, approximately 60 people including representatives from the Chester County Department of Health and Human Services, the Veterans Multi-Service Center, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, and Senator Patrick Toomey (R-PA), and Congressman Patrick Meehan (R-PA) participated in structured conversations around military culture, benefits and education, enrolling for VA health care, the transition from military to civilian life, resources for homeless Veterans, health care for women Veterans, job development, community mental health resources, resources for the family, coordination of mental health care, and technology and VA health care.
Through the discussions, participants explored various issues. Iraq Veteran Shawn Carter explained that some Veterans are not comfortable accessing mental health care services which could prevent them from seeking out needed care. He also noted that VA has gotten better at reaching out to Veterans and providing them with needed services. “VA has come a long way since 1990. Since I came back from Iraq, it’s a whole different ball game. But, it comes down to the Veteran.”
Through the discussion of issues, the groups identified possible actions that can be taken together to better help Veterans access services. Ideas included making coordinated efforts to decrease stigmas associated with mental health care; reaching out to more local property managers toward offering HUD-VASH (Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing) rental opportunities; creating easy connections to VA eligibility and enrollment information as well as points of contact for various VA programs; strengthening access to women’s health care for rural Veterans; promoting the upcoming Welcome Home Job Fair taking place on Sept. 5 at the Coatesville VA Medical Center; making available through wide channels the Resource News Flash that details VA and community resources for mental health; and increasing access through VA care provision at non-VA sites, and many more.
The Mental Health Summit also provided an opportunity for community partners to learn more about the Coatesville VA Medical Center’s expansive and highly regarded mental health care program. In 2014, almost 5,000 outpatients, residential patients, and inpatients received high quality, patient-centered health care through the Behavioral Health Interdisciplinary Program (a medical home model of care); post traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse and homelessness residential rehabilitation treatment programming, and the acute psychiatry unit.
According to Karen Newman, a Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program case manager at the Chester County Opportunities Industrialization Center, the Mental Health Summit is a far reaching opportunity. “We’ve been so fortunate to partner with VA programs. We’ve just seen how important it is to collaborate and a build a better network for Veterans.”