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Army Report Recommends Changes to Address Mental Health Care Deficiencies

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A study of the Army’s mental health care system identifies a number of gaps, and provides recommendations, including increasing the number of behavioral health specialists, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The review found 4 percent of soldiers returning home from combat have behavioral health problems. When they seek help, they must choose from a confusing assortment of programs, and face gaps in mental health records due to uncoordinated record-keeping systems, and inconsistent training for mental health workers.

Lt. Gen. Howard B. Bromberg, Deputy Army Chief of Staff, said behavioral health specialists are being moved into combat zones, so soldiers can receive immediate help. The Army is also working to reduce processing delays for soldiers seeking help. Currently, many must wait for more than a year before their cases are finalized, the article notes.

U.S. Senator Patty Murray of Washington, former chairwoman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, requested the report after hearing that a screening team of forensic scientists at Madigan Army Medical Center in her state were refusing post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) diagnoses for soldiers who had been identified as having the disorder by their own Army counselors and psychiatrists.

Her office found more than 40 percent of PTSD diagnoses for patients under consideration for medical retirement at Madigan were overturned by a psychiatry screening team. An Army review found “no systemic issues of soldiers being disadvantaged in the disability process” regarding the diagnoses of PTSD, according to the Army News Service.

Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho noted the Army has doubled the number of behavioral health care providers. The Army plans to continue expanding the number of these workers. “We want to get behavioral health care out of brick and mortar and into the soldier’s lifespace,” she said. “Soldiers are then more likely to seek behavioral health and other wellness care.”

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