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News and Notes   |    
Civilian Agencies Stepping Up to Provide Behavioral Health Care to Veterans
Psychiatric Services 2013; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.641News2
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Copyright © 2013 by the American Psychiatric Association

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Since 2001, a total of 2.4 million active-duty and reserve military personnel have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Of this group, 30%—nearly 730,000 men and women—have a mental health condition that requires treatment. Studies have shown that 18.5% of these veterans have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depression, or both, and nearly 12% have another mental disorder. However, less than half of those with disorders receive treatment, and of these only 30% receive evidence-based care. A new report by the National Council for Behavioral Health outlines the challenges and the costs of meeting the behavioral health needs of a new generation of veterans—now and in the years to come—and concludes that a partnership of federal and civilian agencies will create the capacity to meet those challenges.

Until recently, the public policy dialogue has framed the treatment shortfall for returning veterans as the sole responsibility of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense. The report notes “a pervasive failure to acknowledge the role of civilian agencies and service providers” and cites evidence of a shift from VA-provided services to other systems. Currently, 27% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are using community-based behavioral health care, and by 2014 that figure is estimated to reach 40%.

The report cites an analysis by a RAND research group showing that every dollar invested in evidence-based care for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with untreated mental disorders results in $2.50 in savings over two years. The RAND analysis looked at costs and benefits of providing appropriate care to 210,000 veterans with untreated PTSD or major depression and found that an investment of $481 million would result in more than $1.2 billion in cost savings over two years. Tables in the report’s appendix summarize data on the numbers of veterans in each state with PTSD or major depression, the costs of treating them, and the two-year cost savings.

“We need a mandate and the funding to deliver the right care at the right time and in the right setting for the men and women who have risked their lives,” said Linda Rosenberg, the National Council’s president and chief executive officer. “Our community behavioral health centers are dedicated to using evidence-based care to help get these veterans on the road to recovery.”

The 11-page report, Meeting the Behavioral Health Needs of Veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, is available on the National Council for Behavioral Health Web site at www.thenationalcouncil.org.

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