PTSD & Substance Abuse Committee Update March/April 2016

There is much more work to be done in 2016 and 2017. Access to treatments for PTSD continues to fall behind need at the VA. Suicide by veterans and active duty personnel continues to increase. Substance abuse, often begun as self-medication for the symptoms of PTSD, continues to ruin lives and families.

As the VA’s most ardent critical friend in the area of behavioral health, the members of the PTSD/SA Committee continue to encourage those following these issues to get involved locally and nationally. Often it is the small things that get noticed. So, break the inertia and move our leaders to address policy and legislation that better serve veterans.

The following list of activities undertaken by committee members is not exhaustive and is meant only to suggest the kind of activities that might assist veterans in coming all the way home:

• Presented on suicide prevention in a veteran population at town hall meetings

• Worked with the medical professions to expand their understanding of PTSD

• Organized and participated in a symposium on PTSD and secondary PTSD

• Attended numerous workshops on the treatment of PTSDand substance abuse

• Worked with VA Medical Center directors to help maintain quality of service

• Partnered with Veterans Against Drugs supporting the National Drug Take Back sponsored by the DEA(Next Drug Take Back is scheduled for April 30)

• Helped organize an Agent Orange town hall meeting

• Participated in VA mental health summits

• Helped organize Veterans Treatment Courts

• Mentored veterans participating in Veterans Courts

• Volunteered to support veteran community programs

• Organized and worked in a stand down for homeless veterans

• Supported the efforts of AVVA to build support addressing secondary traumatic stress

• Worked to organize Toxic Exposures and Hepatitis C town hall meetings

In partnership with the committee’s national staff liaison, it has also moved the following issues forward: mental health services for incarcerated veterans; discharge upgrades for Vietnam vets diagnosed with PTSD after discharge; national PTSD and suicide awareness programs for the National Center for PTSD and the VA’s National Suicide Crisis Center; revision of DoD’s MST policies; VA’s over-prescribing of opioid medications for mental health and chronic pain management; and VVA’s Legislative Agenda.

Tom Hall, Chair

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