NASW's New York State Chapter has received $250,000 in the state's budget to establish a training program to help mental health services providers address the needs of veterans and their families.
The Veterans' Mental Health Training Initiative will establish eight regional training sessions throughout the state for practitioners that will focus on the needs of veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq and their families. The sessions will include training in how to assess and treat combat-related mental health disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury and substance-use disorders. The sessions will also help providers help veterans access available services.
"This is a unique opportunity to serve veterans coming back from foreign conflicts," said chapter Executive Director Reinaldo Cardona. He explained that chapter staff developed the proposal based on several trends they saw related to returning veterans.
First, Cardona noted that Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) services are becoming overwhelmed by increasing needs; second, many returning veterans are reservists who are accessing services through employer insurance plans; and third, many veterans are reluctant to access services through the VA because of stigma or may live too far from facilities to access them conveniently.
The chapter staff developed the proposal working with the VA, the state's Division of Military Affairs and Office of Mental Health and the governors' office. The proposal was funded through language in the state budget bill that passed in April. Funding will come through the Office of Mental Health.
"We expect to train at least 1,200 mental health providers throughout the state," Cardona said. The training sessions will reach social workers as well as other mental health providers.
The chapter is assembling a panel of experts to serve as an advisory group for the program who can develop the training sessions and identify expert speakers, and working with the Office of Mental Health to finalize the contract for the program.
"It's wonderful," Cardona said. "This is an exciting opportunity for New York State."