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Improving Canadian Veterans Access to Mental Health Care

  • Published: 2014-11-28 : Author: Canadian Psychiatric Association : Contact:
  • Synopsis: Report examines whether Veterans Affairs Canada provides veterans with identified mental health care needs with timely access to services and benefits.

The Canadian Psychiatric Association (CPA) supports the Auditor-General's recommendations to improve Veteran mental health care. "While Veterans Affairs Canada has put in place important mental health supports for Veterans, the Report sets out targets for further action to improve veteran access to care," says Dr. Padraic Carr, President of the CPA.

The Report examines whether Veterans Affairs Canada provides veterans with identified mental health care needs with timely access to services and benefits and concludes that overall, the Department does not. The Auditor-General notes that while veteran access to services through the Rehabilitation Program is timely, access to the Disability Benefits Program, the program through which most veterans access mental health services, is slow. The Report cites long-standing barriers to care including a complex application process, delays in obtaining medical and service records from National Defense and long wait-times at operational stress injury clinics for getting a qualified health care professional to assess a mental health condition.

In the Auditor-General's report, Veterans Affairs Canada responds to the Report's findings and recommendations by pointing to a number of ongoing initiatives. Last weekend the Government of Canada announced $200 million over five years to improve mental health care for military members, veterans and their families. Some of these initiatives such increasing the capacity to digitize CAF member health records to speed the transfer of medical document to Veterans Affairs, directly respond to the Auditor-General's recommendations.

"The Auditor General's Report provides an important roadmap for improved Veteran mental health care, including developing performance measures to evaluate the effectiveness of the Veteran Affairs Canada Mental Health Strategy. We are hopeful that the $200 million announcement last week signals an important first step towards increased support for Veterans and their families as they face mental health problems," says Dr. Carr.

CPA supports the following recommendations that:

"Psychiatrists stand ready to help DND, CAF and Veterans Affairs meet the expectations set out in the Report," notes Dr. Carr.

The Canadian Psychiatric Association is the national voice for Canada's 4,700 psychiatrists and more than 900 psychiatric residents. Founded in 1951, the CPA is dedicated to promoting an environment that fosters excellence in the provision of clinical care, education and research.

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