The Department of Veterans Affairs will be hosting a series of mental health summits nationwide over the next several weeks. The July 11 announcement was made during the Military Family Mental Health Conference at the White House.
VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said at the conference that each of the 152 VA medical centers across the country would host its own mental health summit.
Dr. Robert Petzel, VA's under secretary of health, said the summits were intended to promote dialogue and more collaboration between VA's mental health services and private-sector, nonprofit, community and veterans service organizations. The summits also aim to raise public awareness and help overcome the stigma of being treated for mental health disorders.
VA is encouraging American Legion service officers and members to participate in summits at their closest VA medical center. A link to the Mental Health Summit website, with a list of summit dates and points of contact, can be found here .
"These summits are designed to meet the nation's veterans mental health needs, bring together VA programs and services with community and organizations, and reach out to veterans and their families," Shinseki said. "I'm not looking at cookie-cutter programs, as each facility has a different population. These mental health summits are just the beginning, to open dialogue and identify best practices across the country."
Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to President Barack Obama, also spoke at the White House conference. "On behalf of President Obama, we wanted to let veterans with mental health illnesses know that (we) are there for them," she said. With support from VA and community-based organizations, "they are never alone."