In anticipation of a wave of soldiers returning from war, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced it is adding 1,900 healthcare professionals and staff members to its workforce, including 10 to support mental health programming at the Miami VA.
With each additional mental healthcare provider, a facility can potentially reach hundreds more veterans who are struggling with mental illness and the aftermath of war. They will join a team focused on treating veterans through individualized care, readjustment counseling and immediate crisis services. Additional staffing will also help the department expand its post-traumatic stress disorder research and to explore alternative therapies for recovery.
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki made the announcement, noting that “as the tide of war recedes, we have the opportunity, and the responsibility, to anticipate the needs of returning veterans.”
Last year, the VA provided mental health services to 1.3 million veterans, and since 2009, it has increased the mental healthcare budget by 39 percent. Since 2007, the number of vets receiving mental health services increased 35 percent and the staffing increased 41 percent.
The current VA workforce consists of 20,696 mental health staff members, including psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers. Of the total, 254 mental health clinicians and support staff work locally, which includes facilities in Monroe and Broward counties. Overall, the department plans to add 1,600 mental health clinicians and 300 support staff to the workforce. With funding in place, Miami VA officials have already begun to recruit candidates for the local positions and expect to make hires within six months to a year.
“Mental health services must be closely aligned with veterans’ needs and fully integrated with healthcare facility operations,” said VA Undersecretary for Health Dr. Robert Petzel. “Improving access to mental health services will help support the current and future veterans who depend on the VA for these vital services.”