Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center
Charleston VA Mental Health Service expands access
May is designated as Mental Health Month, a national awareness initiative aimed at reducing the stigma surrounding mental health care in an effort to encourage people to seek needed treatment. The Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center has long understood the necessity of providing first-class mental health treatment options to Veterans and, in April, expanded access to inpatient mental health care by opening additional beds in the facility’s 3A unit.
“This increase, from 18 beds to 25 beds on our inpatient unit, will vastly improve our ability to care for some of our most vulnerable Veterans in need of inpatient hospitalization and more intensive mental health care,” said Mental Health Service Chief Hugh Myrick, MD.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is the single largest provider of mental health care in the country, providing services to more than 1.3 million Veterans with mental health issues that are often related to combat deployments. According to Myrick, demand for mental health services at Charleston VAMC and its outlying outpatient clinics has increased dramatically in recent years. Last year, the facility completed more than 217,000 mental health appointments.
“What we’re finding is that the younger Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans are returning home with many more mental health complications than their predecessors,” Myrick said. “This expansion not only allows us to take care of more patients but improves continuity of care through timely follow-up with outpatient treatment options after hospitalization.”
Patients are also connected with recovery-oriented services while participating in inpatient treatments, and interface directly with outpatient programs that will enhance their recovery once they are discharged from the unit.
“This is crucial,” said Myrick. “This practice reduces the risk of readmission and leads to better mental health outcomes for the Veteran.”
Charleston VAMC is joining VAs across the nation to foster public awareness of the mental health challenges many Veterans face and demonstrate the effectiveness of VA treatment options in helping them along the road to recovery. Veterans and their supporters can visit www.maketheconnection.net to learn more about symptoms and conditions and discover the inspiring stories of Veterans’ strength and perseverance.