The Civilian Medical Resources Network – Seeks Troops to Treat

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      Three days ago, we posted an opinion piece by Paul Sullivan of Veterans for Common Sense (VCS) titled American Needs a Discussion About Mental Health and the Draft. In Paul’s article he approached the potential need to consider possibly drafting Medical and Mental Health professionals into the Armed Forces as a last resort to fill a critical gaps in Army field and support Mental Health professionals.

      Though we realized that VCS mentioned consideration of the draft along with four other measures, and as a last resort, to ensure adequate care of our troops in combat and support roles in the warzone, especially given the likelihood that President Obama will aggravate the Mental Health Crisis by deploying additional troops to Afghanistan.

      I for one would be the first to get behind and support the draft; I’ve done so since 2001 when the Global War on Terror began. However, I also logically see two other alternatives that need serious consideration before even debating the draft.

      (1) I strongly feel that ALL MILITARY SERVICES are not utilizing the Mental Health professionals and personnel we already have to the fullest extent possible, especially when one considers it is rare to see a ground trooper being treated for Mental Health by the Air Force for example at stateside Air Forces bases. However (2) I believe that Veterans and Military Family activists leaders, if they haven’t already, need to work closer and assist civilian medical resources that are beginning to focus on the needs of Veterans and active duty troops AND best yet are not under Pentagon control.

      This article is about that alternative, and the civilian medical resources coming available to our Veterans and Troops outside of Pentagon control.

ROBERT L. HANAFIN
Major, U.S. Air Force-Retired
Editorial Board
VT News Network &
Our Troops News Ladder      

    

The Civilian Medical Resources Network was organized in 2005 to try responding to requests by active-duty military personnel for medical and mental health services in the civilian sector.

      After receiving referrals from the GI Rights Hotline, professionals in the Network, based in all parts of the United States, try to respond the GIs’ needs for services.

       "Due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the unmet medical and psychological needs of military personnel are creating major challenges. Increasingly, active duty military personnel are seeking physical and mental health services from civilian professionals. The Civilian Medical Resources Network attempts to address these unmet needs. Participants in the Network include primary care and mental health practitioners in all regions of the country. Network professionals provide independent assessments, clinical interventions in acute situations, and documentation that assists GIs in obtaining reassignment or discharge." Howard Waitzkin MD PhD 1 and Marylou Noble MA 2 from their March 2009 article Caring for Active Duty Military Personnel in the Civilian Sector.

     According to the Civilian Medical Resources Network, an average of eighteen United States military veterans kill themselves every day. At least a thousand former soldiers under the care of the Department of Veterans Affairs attempt suicide every month. The crisis has grown so urgent that more veterans are killing themselves than are dying in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In April 2008 a study by the RAND Corporation reported that 300,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans currently suffer from post traumatic stress disorder and/or major depression. An additional 320,000 soldiers suffer from traumatic brain injury or physical brain damage. Many of these GIs do not receive adequate help from the Pentagon and VA system. 

      The Civilian Medical Resources Network began in March 2005, working to address the unmet medical and psychological needs of active-duty U.S. military personnel who contact the GI Rights Hotline (a national effort by 25 religious and peace organizations). 

      The Network has grown from three participating professionals to 60 currently, located in all areas of the country. Professionals receive a brief training in the support and documentation that the GIs require.

      Due to GIs’ limited financial resources and insurance coverage for civilian services, Network professionals generally provide care free or at greatly reduced cost. When possible, GIs visit Network professionals in person; if an in-person visit proves unfeasible due to geographical distance, Network professionals assist GIs by telephone consultations.

      The volume of new clients that the Network serves has increased from approximately two per month initially to four per week currently. We are expanding our outreach to peace organizations, professional organizations, and especially GIs. 

      Read the new article by Howard Waitzkin and Marylou Noble in the journal Social Medicine about the Civilian Medical Resources Network. Caring for Active Duty Military Personnel in the Civilian Sector Howard Waitzkin MD PhD1 and Marylou Noble MA2

      Due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the unmet medical and psychological needs of military personnel are creating major challenges. Increasingly, active duty military personnel are seeking physical and mental health services from civilian professionals. The Civilian Medical Resources Network attempts to address these unmet needs. Participants in the Network include primary care and mental health practitioners in all regions of the country. Network professionals provide independent assessments, clinical interventions in acute situations, and documentation that assists GIs in obtaining reassignment or discharge.

      Most clients who use Network services come from low-income backgrounds and manifest psychological rather than physical disorders. Qualitative themes in professional-client encounters have focused on ethical conflicts, the impact of violence without meaning (especially violence against civilians), and perceived problems in military health and mental health policies. Unmet needs of active duty military personnel deserve more concerted attention from medical professionals and policy makers.

      Combat operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere not only take the lives of US service personnel but also damage the physical and mental health of many who survive. Even though military officials may strive to implement high-quality military health-care,1 reports originating both inside and outside the military have called attention to the unmet medical and psychological needs of service personnel.

      Some analysts have projected that physical and emotional injuries sustained by US soldiers will become a public health epidemic that will continue to stress the already over-extended U.S. health and mental health systems.

      Several factors may lead active duty GIs* to request independent medical evaluation and treatment outside of the military system.

      GIs experience a command system and a medical care system where illness and injury may be viewed as obstacles to the military mission, inconveniences to local commands, or malingering.

      GIs may face deployment to combat zones before full evaluation of physical illnesses. Those GIs with mental health problems such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder may re-enter combat when newly diagnosed or just beginning a trial of medication. In addition, the problem of double agency pervades the provision of health and mental health services in the military.

       Personnel shortages and pressure to deploy and re-deploy troops rapidly to Iraq and Afghanistan place increasing pressure on military physicians. As they encounter GIs with health and mental health problems, military professionals must consider the goals of maintaining the numbers and readiness of combat forces.13 These military goals tend to contradict the goal of helping the individual patient. The dual role of military professionals raises inherent tensions that increase GIs’ expressed needs for services in the civilian sector.

      The Civilian Medical Resources Network is a small, national network of Mental Health professionals that was established in 2006 to offer GIs an alternative to the military health and mental health care system. The Network consists of professionals in primary care medicine, psychiatry, psychology, social work, and public health who strive to address the needs of active duty US military personnel when they seek medical and psychological care in the civilian sector.

Related "Progressive" Civilian Medical and Mental Health Resources

Physicians for Social Responsibility
http://www.psr.org/chapters/oregon/news/caring-for-active-duty.html

Contacts for source materials are

Caring for Active Duty Military Personnel in the Civilian Sector
[email protected]

The Civilian Medical Resources Network
[email protected]

 

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Readers are more than welcome to use the articles I've posted on Veterans Today, I've had to take a break from VT as Veterans Issues and Peace Activism Editor and staff writer due to personal medical reasons in our military family that take away too much time needed to properly express future stories or respond to readers in a timely manner. My association with VT since its founding in 2004 has been a very rewarding experience for me. Retired from both the Air Force and Civil Service. Went in the regular Army at 17 during Vietnam (1968), stayed in the Army Reserve to complete my eight year commitment in 1976. Served in Air Defense Artillery, and a Mechanized Infantry Division (4MID) at Fort Carson, Co. Used the GI Bill to go to college, worked full time at the VA, and non-scholarship Air Force 2-Year ROTC program for prior service military. Commissioned in the Air Force in 1977. Served as a Military Intelligence Officer from 1977 to 1994. Upon retirement I entered retail drugstore management training with Safeway Drugs Stores in California. Retail Sales Management was not my cup of tea, so I applied my former U.S. Civil Service status with the VA to get my foot in the door at the Justice Department, and later Department of the Navy retiring with disability from the Civil Service in 2000. I've been with Veterans Today since the site originated. I'm now on the Editorial Board. I was also on the Editorial Board of Our Troops News Ladder another progressive leaning Veterans and Military Family news clearing house. I remain married for over 45 years. I am both a Vietnam Era and Gulf War Veteran. I served on Okinawa and Fort Carson, Colorado during Vietnam and in the Office of the Air Force Inspector General at Norton AFB, CA during Desert Storm. I retired from the Air Force in 1994 having worked on the Air Staff and Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon.