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A new RAND Corporation study finds that most community-based mental health providers are not well prepared to take care of the special needs of military veterans and their families.
RAND researchers surveyed 522 psychiatrists, psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, and licensed counselors to determine whether they used evidence-based methods to treat major depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Whether the mental health professional had received the training needed to be sensitive to the needs of veterans was also assessed.
"Our findings suggest that community-based mental health providers are not as well prepared as they need to be to address the needs of veterans and their families," said Terri Tanielian, the study's lead author and a senior social research analyst at RAND, a nonprofit research organization.
Although the Veteran's Health Administration (VA) has increased the number of mental health professionals in their employ, many veterans, especially upon discharge, will seek help in the civilian sector. Often this is due to either distrust of the VA system or convenience.
Recent military veterans are more likely than the general population to suffer from major depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorders, two conditions prevalent among those who have deployed to battle zones. Yet just 13 percent of the mental health providers surveyed met the study's readiness criteria.
Even within the VA healthcare system, discrepancies exist, the study found. About 70 percent of providers working within a military or VA setting met study criteria for competency, but only 24 percent of those in the TRICARE network (part of the Department of Defense's health insurance program) also met that criteria.
The study recommends that organizations that maintain registries or provider networks include information about mental health practitioners’ ability to properly treat the special needs of military and veteran populations.
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