An Assessment of Mental Health Services for Veterans in the State of Texas
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This report describes the complex challenges faced by veterans and their families in seeking, navigating, and attaining adequate mental health care in Texas. There are 1.7 million veterans in Texas, comprising 8.6 percent of the adult population. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), the number of veterans requiring mental health services has grown dramatically and will continue to increase, making veterans’ mental health care an urgent issue in Texas. The federal agencies responsible for military and veterans mental health care, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and the VA, have created new programs and invested significant financial and staff resources. Despite barriers to addressing veterans mental health needs. Texas state agencies have increased funding and instituted new mental health programs supporting returning veterans. Nonprofit agencies focused on veteran’s mental health have multiplied across Texas and the U.S. over the past decade to fill gaps in care. While these organizations provide a growing and increasingly diverse set of resources for veterans to extend the scope of support, volunteer efforts can suffer from fragmentation and overlap. The report identifies current practices, challenges, and opportunities within and across each group of service providers. The report draws on government reports, scholarly literature, and agency websites, as well as interviews with counselors, Veteran Service Officers, nonprofit providers, state officials, and veterans themselves. This report offers five recommendations toward the goal that veterans’ mental health care in Texas become comprehensive, inclusive, effective, and efficient. First, there is a need for greater inter-agency communication across organizations, improved outreach efforts, and increased services for hard-to-reach populations, such as homeless veterans. Second, federal agencies ought to address staff shortages, improve the transition from DoD to VA care, and increase feedback. Third, at the state level, specialized services are needed to address unique veterans’ needs concentrated in cities across Texas as well as those dispersed in rural areas. Fourth, providers can improve mental health care by integrating social services and law enforcement. Fifth, both veterans and providers can benefit if they recognize opportunities for cooperation and coordination and work towards long-term goals that emphasize outcomes that improve the lives of returning veterans. This research was funded in part by the Jack S. Blanton Research Fellowship and the George A. Roberts Research Fellowship of the IC² Institute.