Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - In 2011, Veterans Affairs hospitals across the country provided 1.3 million veterans with specialty mental health services.
To anticipate the needs of returning veterans, the VA Department is hiring 1,600 additional mental health providers for VA Medical Centers across the country. The goal is to reduce wait times for veterans seeking treatment.
The Syracuse center already leads the way in connecting veterans with help.
Forty new mental health providers have been added to the Syracuse Medical Clinic's staff in the past few years and administrators say it has drastically cut down on wait time for veterans looking for treatment.
David Kornbluth, co-manager of Behavioral Health, said “We want to make it as easy as possible for somebody to be able to come in and be seen.”
Veterans who walk in and need help immediately are now able to see an on-call psychiatrist within the day.
They're immediately connected with the program they need based on their mental health condition which, without being treated, often puts them at risk for homelessness.
Healthcare for Homeless Veterans program director David Ornsby said, “The worst part of being homeless is the feeling like there's not a light at the end of the tunnel. And we're able to see them so quickly now, I think we're really able to give them the hope that there really is a next step.”
Associate Medical Center Director, Dr. Judy Hayman, says the Syracuse center is better able to address the changing needs of young, returning veterans than elsewhere in the country.
“Given our proximity to Fort Drum, we see a higher percentage of newly returning veterans than others in upstate New York,” Hayman said.
There's much more work to be done. The crisis line is always ringing.
Kornbluth said, “It just doesn't stop… They're calling us, they're asking for help. That’s the only thing we want. If they're willing to reach out, we will get them in. We will get them seen.”
And they'll be seen more quickly than at almost any other VA medical center in the country.
Veterans seeking help may call the numbers listed below --
Veteran Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255
Veteran Homeless Hotline: 1-877-424-3838
Syracuse VA Medical Center Syracuse: 315-425-4400
Syracuse VA Outpatient Behavioral Health: 315-425-3884