VA, Community Gather for Mental Health Summit - Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System
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Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System

 

VA, Community Gather for Mental Health Summit

VA staff and community leaders participate in a small group discussion

VA staff and community leaders participate in a small group discussion during the Mental Health Summit.

By Nathan Schaeffer
Friday, August 23, 2013

The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) recognizes that meeting the needs of Veterans and their families requires collaboration and partnership between VA, other federal agencies and local communities.

On August 22, the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center (JCMVAMC) hosted a collaborative Mental Health Summit between VA and community mental health leaders at the Tulsa Technical Center in Broken Arrow.

The purpose of the summit was to establish and enhance positive working relationships between both groups and to nurture engagement to better address the broad mental health care needs of Veterans and their families.

Following a brief overview of VA mental health services, VA staff and community leaders participated in small group discussions throughout the day on topics such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), military sexual trauma, Veteran homelessness, substance use disorders and outreach and engagement strategies.

“The Mental Health Summit was an important opportunity for all of us to sit at the same table, to listen and learn from each other,” said James Floyd, JCMVAMC Director. “We all want the same thing - for our Veterans and their families to be well cared for.  And we know that they cannot receive the quality, coordinated services they need if we are not talking to each other regularly and working together.”

VA staff and community leaders give presentations during the Mental Health Summit

Following small group discussions, VA staff and community leaders gave presentations during a large group discussion.

Dr. Beth Jeffries, the JCMVAMC Lead Psychologist & Supervisor for the PTSD Program, said forming partnerships with the local community is critical to filling any gaps in services that may exist.

“We try to offer as much if not everything that we can,” said Jeffries. “But the reality is, there are gaps and there are gaps that community leaders can help us fill. The whole idea is trying to begin steps to develop a network of service for Veterans to help meet their needs.”

Jeffries also said a critical purpose of the summit was to encourage local providers to reach out to VA for support.

“We know that community providers often see Veterans, but maybe they’ve never worked with PTSD,” said Jeffries. “Maybe they don’t really know what it is or know what to do. So having the VA on the forefront of that person’s mind and encourage them to call us helps VA fill those gaps in services.”

VA staff and community leaders give presentations during the Mental Health Summit

Following small group discussions, VA staff and community leaders gave presentations during a large group discussion.

Kathy Avery, a mental health counselor for the Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology in Okmulgee, attended the summit and said it is important to network with VA to better serve the Veterans on her campus.

“We have an increasing number of Veterans who are coming to take advantage of their VA benefits,” said Avery. “We want to be able to serve them and meet their needs once they actually get on campus and that’s one of the reasons I’m here.”

Avery also said she learned more about VA benefits and services and said she would share the information she learned with Veteran students.

“I know from working with the VA in the past, I knew there was a lot of stuff available,” said Avery. “That’s one of the things I hope to do a better job with, so we can let the students who are on our campus know what is available out there and I can help them get connected.”

To assist community mental health providers in serving Veterans, VA also offers a Community Provider Toolkit. You can find information on connecting with VA, understanding military culture and experience, as well as tools for working with a variety of mental health conditions.

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