Providence VA Medical Center, Rhode Island
It Takes a Community
“Our mission at VA is to provide the exceptional health care Veterans have earned, and mental health services are a critical part of that, but we know many Veterans also get care from outside providers,” said Dr. Susan MacKenzie, director of the Providence VA Medical Center about the annual Mental Health Summit held Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. “A collaborative partnership between VA and the mental health community in Rhode Island will foster an optimal environment for recovery.”
The Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences Service, or MHBSS, at the Providence VAMC completes more than 30,000 appointments annually for Veterans at the Providence facility and clinics in Middletown, R.I., and New Bedford and Hyannis, Mass. Services include inpatient and outpatient treatment and support for homelessness, post-traumatic stress, substance use and other challenges.
MHBSS continually enhances services, extending hours and expanding tele-mental health services to improve accessibility, and making greater use of evidenced-based practices, such as cognitive processing therapy. Enhancements to addiction-related services include opening a Vivitrol clinic for opiates and alcohol, increasing access to opiate replacement therapy in the Suboxone clinic, and implementing bi-annual “Voice of the Veteran” meetings where Veterans and staff discuss what is working and what could be improved.
“Our goal for care is to be recovery-oriented and person-centered,” said Dr. Robert Swift, chief of MHBSS, “but to be effective we must work in concert with the community and family members.”
The Providence VAMC’s third annual Mental Health Summit brought together more than 100 clinicians, Veterans and their family members, and others to explore how the community can work together to enhance the mental health of Veterans in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts. The event included presentations and discussions about the National Resource Directory, the Veterans Choice Program, substance use disorder, the needs of Veterans’ families and caregivers, current innovations for treating Veterans, and research at the Providence VAMC.
“It's unfortunate that the sacrifices Veterans have made for us can also affect their mental health,” said Dr. Robert Tilton, chief of substance abuse programs at the Providence VAMC. “It takes a community to provide comprehensive support for Veterans in need, and that’s what the Mental Health Summit is all about.”