Veterans Day is an opportunity not only to honor the bravery and sacrifice of all of the men and women in our armed services, but to also to remember how important it is that these brave individuals receive our full support when they return to civilian life. Together with our partners in the Department of Veterans’ Services, DPH is dedicated to supporting those who have served our country – and we are proud of our programs and initiatives that work to meet the needs of service members, veterans, and their families.
Along with the Department of Veteran Services and the Department of Mental Health, DPH recently participated in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Policy Academy to develop an inter-agency plan for addressing the behavioral health needs of service members, veterans, and their families. These Academies offer an opportunity to strengthen behavioral health care systems and services for these populations by increasing access to appropriate care, closing gaps in the system, building the system’s capacity and increasing inter-agency communication and collaboration.
Over the coming year, the Department’s Bureau of Substance Abuse Services will partner with the Massachusetts National Guard to provide prevention curriculum and assessment to individuals that test positive in drug urinalysis. The National Guard will be depending on DPH to help develop the program which will include prevention, assessment, treatment and the development of necessary materials.
DPH, through the Division of Violence and Injury Prevention, funds the Statewide Advocacy for Veterans’ Empowerment (SAVE) Team within the Department of Veterans’ Services. The SAVE program advocates for veterans, regardless of the branch in which they served, who are not able to obtain the benefits they have earned due to institutional or personal barriers. The program strives to prevent suicide and mental health distress through the identification of issues facing veterans when they return from service and proactively providing them with access to benefits and services that may address these issues and result in positive transitions back to civilian life.
In addition to the programmatic work for the SAVE team, DPH is also partnering with the Department of Veterans’ Services, the Department of Mental Health, UMass Medical School and Riverside Community Care to address a recent cluster of suicides among members of the Massachusetts National Guard. Under the leadership of Health and Human Services Secretary Polanowicz, both DPH and DMH have pledged resources and support to assist the Massachusetts National Guard in their response.
The Department is also working closely with several partners to provide coordinated community-based services for veterans who find themselves in specialty court proceedings. With support from a recent SAMHSA grant, DPH will collaborate with the Massachusetts Trial Court, Department of Mental Health, University of Massachusetts Medical School, and the Gavin Foundation to enhance the substance use and mental health treatment services being provided in two existing specialty courts, by embedding an evidence-based wraparound service model called Maintaining Independence and Sobriety Through Systems Integration, Outreach and Networking (MISSION). MISSION systematically integrates case management, co-occurring disorders treatment, peer support, vocational supports, and trauma informed care in one coordinated delivery approach. The goal of the project is to reduce relapse and recidivism by facilitating care between the courts and community providers to address the unmet treatment needs which often prevents compliance with court treatment plans.
On Veterans’ Day and throughout the year, we look forward to continuing our strong partnership with Department of Veterans’ Services Secretary Coleman Nee and the entire DVS team – to honor our veterans by helping them to transition to healthy and productive lives upon their return from service.