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Mental Health

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VA's Mental Health Care Approach | Recovery, Measurement-based Care

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About VA Mental Health

Mental Health Care at VA

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) aims to address Veterans’ needs from the moment they transition out of the military through their reintegration into civilian life and beyond. Nothing is more important to VA than supporting the health of the nation’s Veterans and their families. Overall health includes mental well-being, which VA supports with timely access to high-quality, evidence-based mental health care. VA’s mental health programs and services are rooted in several core values:

A Focus on Recovery

Whether a Veteran is facing a mental health concern, substance misuse, the effects of military sexual trauma or any of life’s challenges, focusing on healing and recovery empowers them to take charge and live a fuller and more meaningful life. This approach builds on a Veteran’s strengths and offers respect, honor and hope — to both the Veteran and the family members who support them.

Evidence-Based Treatments

VA provides mental health treatments that are proven to be effective for most Veterans. These scientifically tested and approved courses of treatment take place over defined periods of time, with a focus on helping Veterans meet their goals in recovery and in life. 

Measurement-Based Care

Measurement-based care (MBC) provides Veterans the opportunity to take an active role in their mental health care. In MBC, the Veteran is part of their own treatment team, working with their providers to set recovery goals, develop treatment plans, establish benchmarks and monitor progress. The treatment is tailored to the individual Veteran’s specific needs, and the metrics gathered along the way are used to determine whether treatment is working as planned or needs to be adjusted. VA is working to ensure that MBC is part of every one of its mental health programs.

Coordinated Care for the Whole Person

Timely medical care, good nutrition, regular exercise, a sense of purpose and supportive family members and friends are just as important to mental health as they are to physical health. That’s why VA health care professionals work together to provide safe and effective treatment for the whole person — head to toe, inside and out — using what’s known as a “whole health” approach. Through VA Whole Health, Veterans take an active role in their care by partnering with their providers to achieve and maintain their optimal health and well-being. It all starts with answering a simple question: What matters most to you?

Round-the-Clock Service

Emergency mental health care is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at VA medical centers (VAMCs). Facilities that do not have a 24-hour emergency room provide these services through a local, non-VA hospital. Telephone evaluations at VAMCs and the Veterans Crisis Line are also available around the clock every day.

Peer Specialists

Peer specialists are trained and certified in offering mental health support. As Veterans themselves with personal experience of recovery from mental health conditions, they help other Veterans identify and achieve specific recovery and wellness goals. Peer specialists are found in many types of VHA settings and can provide support in several ways, including:

  • Serving as role models by sharing their recovery stories.
  • Collaborating with health care professionals to support Veterans’ goals.
  • Helping Veterans develop and enhance problem-solving skills.
  • Helping Veterans identify their strengths, their skills and the resources needed to achieve their goals.
  • Coaching Veterans on developing self-help skills to independently manage their health conditions.
  • Empowering Veterans to speak up about their mental health concerns.
  • Informing Veterans about available VA and community resources.
  • Inspiring Veterans to see their own potential and believe that they can achieve wellness and their personal goals.

Veterans who want to work with a peer specialist can obtain a referral from their current VA health care provider.

Care Close to Home

To improve Veterans’ access to care, VA is adding more rural and mobile clinics and working with health care providers in smaller communities. VA also uses cutting-edge technologies — including mental health care by phone or secure video, self-directed apps for smartphones and text-based support — to deliver care to Veterans when they need it, wherever they are, even in the comfort of their own homes.

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