The St. Louis VA Medical Center
#VeteransAffairs officials want to drop copay expenses for #veterans facing #mentalhealthchallenges as a way to encourage more individuals to seek help when facing #suicidalthoughts.
Department leaders on Wednesday published plans in the Federal Register to modify VA’s copayment rules, with the goal of reforming the policy in coming months.
In a statement, VA Secretary Denis McDonough said the move is part of broader #suicidepreventionandhealthcare outreach efforts by the department.
About 17 #veterans a day died by #suicide in 2019, the latest year for which data was available.
“Research shows increased frequency of outpatient #mentalhealth encounters for high-risk #Veterans reduces their risk of #suicide,” he said. “Through these efforts, VA will continue to address this national public health crisis by further eliminating financial burdens on #veterans which may negatively influence their engagement in #mentalhealthtreatment and their critical medication availability.”
#Veterans who use VA as their primary #healthcareprovider do not have to pay any extra fees when receiving care at a department hospital. But #veterans seeking #mentalcare at outpatient clinics can face copayments for appointments, typically ranging from $15 to $50.
Advocates say even those small amounts can present a potential barrier to a #veteran in distress who needs immediate assistance. And the costs can compound quickly in cases where #veterans need multiple visits in a month, often to refill medications.
Officials said the new move “would reduce the financial burden of multiple co-payments associated with both increased outpatient visits as well as more frequent, but limited supply of prescribed medications.”
Last fall, VA officials announced that #veterans #suicides across #America in 2019 fell to about 17 per day, their lowest level in 12 years.
#Mentalhealthexperts warn that feelings of depression and #anxiety will likely outlast the immediate isolation of the #pandemic.
The latest data available does not take into account the ongoing #coronavirus #pandemic, which began in March 2020, but VA officials preliminary research has not shown a significant increase in those numbers over the last two years.
Still, #suicideprevention remains a key focus of VA leadership and the #WhiteHouse, as it has been for the last three presidential administrations. Even with the decrease, the rate of #suicide among #veterans remains almost double the rest of the #American public.
Members of the public can comment on the planned copayment rule through the Federal Register until March 7.
#James Donaldson notes:
Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.
Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.
Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space. #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle
Order your copy of James Donaldson’s latest book,
From The Verge of Suicide to a Life of Purpose and Joy
#Veterans experiencing a #mentalhealthemergency can contact the #VeteranCrisisLine at 1-800-273-8255 and select option 1 for a VA staffer. #Veterans, troops or their family members can also text 838255 or visit VeteransCrisisLine.net for assistance.
About Leo Shane III
Leo covers Congress, #VeteransAffairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and #veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.