VA continues to pioneer new approaches for treating veteran mental health conditions


A recent study by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open on March 1 showed positive outcomes for veterans struggling with multiple mental health conditions.

The randomized implementation trial, which included 5,596 veterans receiving care in a VA outpatient mental health clinic, showed that effective teamwork and a patient’s active involvement in their care can reduce hospitalization rates for veterans with mental health conditions.

“VA is committed to ensuring veterans receive the best mental health care available,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said. “Combining best practices, such as those identified in the study allows VA to continually refine our mental health services.”

The study outlines effective steps for veterans, their clinicians and the larger VA health care system to all work together to positively impact the mental health of veterans. The new collaborative, interdisciplinary team approach to outpatient mental health demonstrated:

• Reduced rate of mental health hospitalizations among veterans treated by the teams.

• Improved mental health status for veterans with multiple mental health conditions.

• Improved clinician team function in terms of clarity of team member roles and prioritization of team over individual goals.

During the study, researchers worked with existing VA Behavioral Health Interdisciplinary Program (BHIP) teams in mental health outpatient clinics. BHIP teams generally comprise psychiatrists, psychologists, RN care managers, advanced practice nurses, peer support specialists, social workers and licensed therapists.

Researchers helped these teams to align their care processes with the scientifically proven (i.e., evidence-based) Collaborative Chronic Care Model (CCM), which is an approach for integrating behavioral health care and engaging veterans to be active participants in their care. This study extended the CCM, which had been scientifically proven to improve outcomes in formal clinical research trials, to VA outpatient clinics.

As a result of the findings collected during the trial and based off veteran health status and satisfaction data gathered during telephone interviews at baseline and at six and 12 months of support, VA plans to nationally implement the unique team-based model of care over the next two years to benefit more veterans and those who care for them.

For further information, please contact the Veteran Services Office.

For more information

The office of the Archuleta County veterans service officer (VSO) provides assistance to qualified military veterans and their families, or a veteran’s survivors, in applying to and in obtaining VA program assistance, benefits and claims. This assistance is provided within the guidelines, policies and procedures established by the Colorado Department of Military and Veteran Affairs. This is a mandated program of the state of Colorado.

For further information on VA benefits, please call or stop by the Archuleta County Veterans Service Office, located at the Pagosa Springs Senior Center in the Ross Aragon Community Center on Hot Springs Boulevard. The best way to contact me is to set up an appointment, for either at your home or in the office, so I can schedule a specific time in order to answer and assist each veteran in Archuleta County.

The office number is 264-4013; fax number is 264-4014 and email is Bring your DD Form 214 (discharge) for applications to VA programs or benefits for which the veteran may be entitled to enroll, and for filing in the Archuleta County VSO office. Always leave me a message and phone number to contact you.

Veterans’ groups

The following veterans groups meet in Pagosa Springs:

• American Legion Post 108: Second Wednesday of the month at 6 p.m., 287 Hermosa St.

• American Legion Post 108 Ladies Auxiliary: Second Tuesday of the month at 4 p.m., 287 Hermosa St.

• Veterans for Veterans: Every Tuesday at 10 a.m., St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church, 225 S. Pagosa Blvd.

• Combat Veterans PTSD Group: Every other Tuesday at noon, Community United Methodist Church, 434 Lewis St. Contact Gary Hanneman at 946-2540.

• Women’s Group of Spouses of Veterans: First and third Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. Dr. Sharon Carter’s office. Contact Charlotte at 903-9690.

Important numbers

• 799-VETS,

• Durango VA Outpatient Clinic: 247-2214.

• Farmington VA Center: (505) 326-4383.

• VAMC Albuquerque NM: (800) 465-8262.

• VAMC Albuquerque NM emergency notification: (800) 465-8262, ext. 5739.

The Veterans Crisis Line offers free, confidential support to veterans in crisis, as well as their family and friends 24/7/365. Call (800) 273-8255, chat online, or text 838255.