Laura Groshong, LICSW, CSWA Director of Policy and Practice
Judy Gallant, Fran Schopick, Jaylee Cox, and I met with Ben Donovan, Legislative Aide to Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA), who had reached out to CSWA, to talk about mental health needs in the military.
Rep. Kilmer has a district which has a heavy military presence. He realized that the last organized effort to look at the way that mental health is handled in the military was in 2005. He would like to revive the Commission created then look at this issue. He would like to include clinical social workers in this group. They would like to have more dedicated clinicians on carriers and on bases at rates that are more commensurate with the numbers of personnel; currently each clinician is expected to serve 1000-8000 military personnel. There is more support from officers for mental health than in the past. Some officers are starting to see access to mental health treatment as the most important need in the military currently.
There were a number of suicides on a carrier in Virginia (USS George Washington) recently when it was being maintained there. Rep. Kilmer would like to avoid this in the future. He and others are trying to create a baseline for how many people mental health clinicians, included in telemental health, need to see. He would also like to stop the mental health stigma that still exists in some parts of the military.
We talked about the problems we have had with Tricare, both with reimbursement rates and inclusion of enough clinicians. We all agreed that funding for mental health is a huge problem and more is needed to make mental health an integrated part of the military. We will look into whether MH parity covers the military and could therefore address this problem.
We will continue this discussion.
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