May 28, 2009

Wyden, Merkley Announce Funding To Improve Access to Mental Health Treatment for Rural Veterans

Program will reach out to veterans in Bend, The Dalles, Eugene, Grants Pass, Klamath Falls, and other communities

Washington, D.C- Continuing efforts to make sure all of Oregon's veterans have access to the quality medical care they deserve, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Jeff Merkley (D- Ore.) announced today that the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center will receive $1.9 million to improve mental health treatment for veterans in rural Oregon.

"As more and more of our veterans confront the sometimes severe mental health effects of serving in a very dangerous environment, we must commit to providing the best possible treatment to get these men and women back on their feet," Wyden said. "This funding will provide resources to better reach veterans in rural Oregon, get them the mental health care they deserve, and create much needed support structures within rural communities."

"It is our responsibility to help our service men and women address the challenges facing them when they return from overseas," Merkley said. "Some of them are far from the services provided on major bases and big cities. We cannot leave our rural veterans behind. This funding for mental health services and support groups is one of the most important ways we can support our veterans."

Operating as part of the Office of Rural Health Funds Distribution Program, the Oregon Rural Mental Health Implementation program will provide a three-pronged system for improving access for Oregon veterans to mental healthcare treatment. Building off of the expertise of the Portland VA Medical Center, the program will extend the existing Nurse Care Manager models to reach more veterans in rural areas suffering from mental health issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, substance misuse, and anxiety.

Also included in the program are improvements to the tested group tele-video treatment for PTSD patients including Exposure Based Treatments, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapies. These programs use tele-video technology to treat patients who have experienced extreme levels of trauma. The program will also fund outreach within Bend, North Coast, Central Coast, South Coast, The Dalles, Eugene, Grants Pass and Klamath Falls to assist veterans in the treatment process. Senators Wyden and Merkley have frequently called for better access to mental health services for rural Oregon.

This funding comes on top of the $13 million the Pacific Northwest is expected to receive as part of the $250 million package of rural health initiatives the Department of Veterans Affairs announced last week. Those health initiatives will include expansion of outreach clinics, home-based primary care, and access to telemedicine technology.