(Official Washington Examiner editorial, Nov. 11)  On this Veterans Day, let us not just praise the valor of those who served in the U.S. armed forces , but also do a better job meeting their needs.

Long gone are the days, of course, when protesters spat on veterans returning from Vietnam, blaming them essentially for the luck of the draw in being drafted to serve in an unpopular war. Thankfully, for some three decades now, veterans have been among the most admired of all, almost universally appreciated.

Yet try as it might, this nation somehow fails too often to turn goodwill and good wishes into effective services for those who transition back to civilian life. Congress did a good thing several years ago by expanding the opportunity for veterans to use private sector healthcare (a sort of healthcare voucher system), but it balked this summer at implementing a long-planned, major systemic change when a task force recommendation proved politically problematic. Meanwhile, management problems last month delayed yet again another long-planned initiative, namely a new electronic health record system that just can’t seem to have its bugs worked out …..

There’s a new model of integrated care, not just for veterans but for public-health-related services in general, that seems to work quite well and is now moving into the veteran space. Known as Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics, the model began in an eight-state demonstration project in 2017 after being authorized through the Excellence in Mental Health Act of 2014.

John F. Kilpatrick, CEO of Veterans Recovery Resources in Mobile, Alabama, explains the need for the behavioral clinics model : “What you had were two very different types of organizations: primary care health organizations that wanted to add behavioral health services, and behavioral health groups that wanted to add primary health services. The cultures are very different.”

What would happen, he said, is that “veterans would come to us for behavioral health, but they were on 15 different prescription drugs, so we needed primary care physicians to get a hold of the prescriptions and underlying health conditions.” The behavioral clinics model combines primary and mental healthcare, he said, “and all the support services that should go along with it.”…. [The full column is at this link.]



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