LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Mental health care remains a major issue for Las Vegas valley veterans, and getting help can be a challenge.
13 Action News has chronicled issues within Southern Nevada's VA system, and mental health is one of the big ones.
Post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain Injury, addiction. suicide. Many of our veterans face life-or-death mental health situations long after they leave the battlefield.
Advocates say the system is overwhelmed and understaffed.
The most recent numbers show 517 vacancies in the hospital. 29 of those vacancies are positions associated with mental health services.
These numbers are from the end of June, but new hires were set to fill about half of those jobs.
While the VA says it has added 70 new positions in behavioral health since 2017, advocates say that's not enough and alternative treatments need to be used more.
RJ Dough co-founded the Veterans Transition Resource Center. He says manpower is a huge concern.
"There's a lot that could be done... a lot more that could be done," says Dough.
"But once again, if you don't have the people to do it, that's the hardest part. You probably need more people. And the VA, you said it yourself, they have so many positions that are not filled. And that's really sad that we have it that way."
The VA sent us the following statement:
All VA facilities provide same-day urgent primary and mental health care services to Veterans who need them, and we urge Veterans to seek care through the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System, which offers comprehensive mental health treatment.
We encourage any Veteran, family member or friend concerned about a Veteran's mental health to contact the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1 or text 838255. Trained professionals are also available to chat at VeteransCrisisLine.net. The lines are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The best indicator of a hospital’s performance is not the number of staff, but Veteran access to care and health care outcomes. By those standards, VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System is doing well – even when compared to the private sector.
In fact, VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System ranks third in a comparison of 21 local hospitals. More info is here: AccessToCare.va.gov.
The challenge in Nevada isn't limited to our veterans.
According to the VA, Nevada ranks 50th -- dead last -- for behavioral health specialists per capita.
The VA says that makes it all the more difficult to recruit new employees.