Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System
Mental Health Summit Strengthens Partnerships
The Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System held its 6th annual Mental Health Summit on Aug. 24, which was held at the University of Tulsa campus.
Approximately 150 people attended the summit, which was intended to bring together key stakeholders in the community with the goal of enhancing access to mental health services and addressing the mental health needs of Veterans in Eastern Oklahoma.
According to statistics, approximately 50 percent of Veterans in Eastern Oklahoma seek assistance from non-VA providers or organizations when facing a crisis.
The summit provided critical Suicide Prevention training for first responders, clinical providers and community organizations who provide services to Veterans.
“The goal of our suicide prevention training is to educate our community partners on what suicide risk factors to look for and what kinds of questions to ask when they do encounter a Veteran,” said Dr. River Smith, VA Psychologist. “We also provide information on how to identify people who might be at risk for suicide. Additionally, the summit also serves as a venue for our community partners to talk about challenges that they have faced in combating Veteran suicide in their own roles.”
In addition, the summit also included information about VA mental health services and points of contact, presentations on the military to civilian transition experience, Traumatic Brain Injury, interpersonal violence, caregiver support, sleep interventions for Veterans, Veterans Treatment Court, an overview of VA access and eligibility, and a question and answer session.
Jamie Vanbeber, Director of Psychological Health for the 138th Fighter Wing, Oklahoma Air National Guard based in Tulsa, attended the summit and said collaboration with VA was vital.
“It’s imperative that we have a good working relationship,” she said. “It’s also good to meet face to face on an official basis. A lot of times, you talk with people on the phone, but you don’t actually get a chance to meet with them.”
Dr. Smith thanked everyone who attended the summit and our community partners who provide critical services for Veterans.
“Our community partners play a vital role in assisting VA,” said Dr. Smith. “We can’t do it alone. They also play an important role in helping VA decrease the stigma related with seeking mental health care at VA. I hope the summit continues to be a venue that allows us to share resources and strengthen community relationships for many years to come.”