Despite VA Benefits and Disability Coverage, Jennifer Struggles to Get the Care She Needs

jennifer for cfymAlthough Jennifer remembers “just not feeling right” in high school and telling a teacher that she wanted to die, she wasn’t diagnosed with major depression until she was nearly 30. An unrelated medical disability required her release from the Navy, and a car accident shortly thereafter further complicated Jennifer’s physical health and depression. In constant pain, she often wondered if her life would ever get better. At a couple of dark points, the possibility of taking her life became a concern. Jennifer sought emergency help at the VA and was hospitalized in the psychiatric ward.

“I was the only female up there,” Jennifer recalls. She describes the situation as “scary” for a woman, grouped with men whose issues run the gamut from alcohol abuse to serious mental illness. For those in the VA hospital’s psychiatric ward, she says, “They don’t have separate treatment.”

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Coaching Into Care—VA Mental Health Coaching Service for Family and Friends of Veterans

steven_johnBy Steven Sayers, Ph.D. and John DeVincent, Psy.D.

This Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving Day, Coaching Into Care (CIC) would like to recognize that our country’s Service Members and Veterans have given much to our country. Their families have also served and sacrificed by supporting them, caring for family when they were deployed, and helping them start new lives when they leave active duty. We are grateful for their courage and strength.

Recognizing the role of the family
Family members play an important role in supporting Veterans when they are in need of help, and the Department of Veterans Affairs has resources to assist them through an innovative program called Coaching Into Care (CIC). Celebrating its third year, this free and confidential VA helpline helps callers discover new ways to talk with a Veteran about their concerns and treatment options. The program’s mission is to educate, support, and empower family members and friends who are seeking care or services for a Veteran, with an end goal of encouraging distressed Veterans to successfully access VA care anywhere in the United States.

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Coaching Into Care: VA Coaches Help Supporters of Veterans Make the Tough Decision to Get Help

WalserAmber Walser, Psy.D.

According to The Department of Veterans Affairs, nearly 30 percent of Veterans serving in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11 who have been treated at V.A. hospitals and clinics have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Read about an innovative VA program that assists loved ones and friends who want to learn how to better support the Veteran in their life and encourage him or her to seek professional support.

Providing tools to support veterans
Judy, the girlfriend of an Army Veteran, called Coaching Into Care (CIC) with concerns about the combat stress and alcohol misuse her boyfriend was experiencing and the toll it was taking on their relationship. Her boyfriend would acknowledge the need for treatment but wouldn’t follow through, and they were quickly growing apart. A CIC call responder provided support and education about combat stress and encouraged Judy to take things slowly rather than to fix everything right away. Then, the call responder prepared Judy for the coaching process, which would connect Judy with a psychologist or social worker with whom she would speak over the phone during the coming weeks or months.

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The Pro’s and Con’s of High Deductible Health Insurance Plans

docAre you familiar with the term “high deductible health insurance plan” (HDHP)? This type of coverage saves you money on monthly health insurance premiums in exchange for higher deductibles—the annual upfront amount of covered health expenses you must self-pay (out-of-pocket) before your plan pays for medical expenses. Read today’s post to better understand if these plans are right for you.

Autumn brings a change in the weather, the onset of fall colors, and for many, it signals the annual rite of choosing a health insurance plan for 2015. Employers are increasingly offering HDHPs to their employees. In fact, according to a National Business Group on Health survey, of the 136 large companies studied, almost 33% offer HDHPs to their employees. These plans are also available from the health insurance marketplace for individuals and families who do not receive their health insurance through employers.

Before deciding on whether or not this plan is right for you and your family, it is wise to evaluate your own and your family member’s mental health care needs.

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Can Medicaid Managed Care Programs Deliver on the Promise to Improve Outcomes?

Couple_sitting_at_a_tableHeather O’Donnell
Vice President of Advocacy and Public Policy, Thresholds

Autumn ushers in a time to evaluate your current health insurance plans. Over the next few weeks, CFYM will provide information on Medicaid, employee-sponsored plans, and ACA marketplace plans. In today’s post, Heather O’Donnell provides guidance about moving to a Medicaid managed care plan.

As the Affordable Care Act is implemented across the country, Illinois, like most states, is making changes to its Medicaid program. As the largest insurer of Illini living with a mental health condition, this program has a responsibility to

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Medicare Part D Users are Feeling the Squeeze

medsIf concerns about being able to retain access to the correct medications to treat their mood disorders was not enough, individuals utilizing Medicare Part D must also be concerned about whether or not they can even afford to take their prescribed medications.

When Medicare Part D took effect in 2006, it arrived with mixed reviews. Today, according to a survey conducted by Medicare Today, 86% of seniors say they are satisfied with their prescription drug plan. One reason they site for the satisfaction is that the costs are reasonable. Given the way things are trending however, the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) may see satisfaction dip.

Cost related non-adherence to medication protocols is growing. The inability to pay for costly medicines causes patients to stretch out their prescriptions by skipping or taking smaller doses than prescribed. In in a recent Health Affairs study, (Medication Affordability Gains Following Medicare Part D Are Eroding Among Elderly with Multiple Chronic Conditions) seniors experiencing four or more chronic conditions reported a cost-related non-adherence rise from a low of 14.4% in 2009 to 17% in 2011.

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Speak Out About Potential Reductions to Medicare Part D Benefits

Trudy LapinLast Tuesday, September 30, DBSA participant Trudy Lapin shared her story during two Congressional briefings sponsored by the Partnership for Part D Access. Trudy used her time to explain to Congressional staff from both the House and the Senate why a proposed regulation by CMS to restrict access to medication that aids in the treatment of mood disorders is misguided. You can read Trudy’s statement below, and learn how you can share your story with your own elected officials.

Treatment is not one size fits all
Although I was first diagnosed officially with major depression in 1993, signs of that particular mood disorder appeared in childhood. While attending college, an over achieving pattern went into high gear. I elected a double major in French and English literature with a minor in secondary education. I graduated with highest honors; accepted a full fellowship to Yale Graduate School to pursue my doctorate in Romance Languages and Literatures; taught French language, literature, and film at Yale College and at the University of Chicago; and was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities grant, where I enjoyed the privilege of working with humanities scholars at Princeton University.

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How Will You Protect Access to Quality Mental Health Care for Seniors?

j0438813Today the Partnership for Medicare Part D will hold a Congressional briefing to discuss the significance of Medicare’s “Six Protected Classes” policy giving seniors access to quality mental health care. While you may not be able to attend in person, it is still critical that you educate your Congressional Representative and Senators on the importance of retaining these benefits.

How Will You Protect Access to Quality Mental Health Care for Seniors?
According to the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation depression impacts more than 6 million of the 40 million Americans over 65. Health problems become more common and increasingly complex as seniors age. With the onset of more serious conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease, individualized medicine becomes increasingly critical to helping seniors manage their mental and physical health.

This is why Congress carved out six protected classes of medications when they authorized Medicare Part D. Their intent was that seniors would have access to these medications without regulatory burdens. The preservation of the six protected classes is critical to providing treatment for serious, complex health conditions without delay or restricted access to essential treatment.

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How You Can Educate Local and State Officials to Increase School Mental Health Services

KellyKelly Vaillancourt, PhD, NCSP
Director of Government Relations, National Association of School Psychologists

Last week, Kelly Vaillancourt provided an easy way for you to advocate to members of Congress about providing mental health services in schools. Now, she offers some ideas about how you can effectively interact with local and state officials in order to make meaningful and substantial progress toward increasing access to comprehensive mental health services. Dr. Vaillancourt is director of government relations at the National Association of School Psychologists, which represents over 25,000 school psychologists. These professionals work with students, educators, administrators, and families to support the academic achievement, positive behavior, and mental health of all students, especially those who struggle with barriers to learning. Your voice is critical in helping ensure that all children, youth, and adults have access to the mental and behavioral health services they need and there are many quick and easy ways that you can be an effective advocate. Here, we focus on the ways you can educate and advocate at the local and state levels.

Educate School Boards about Comprehensive Mental Health Supports

  • Identify your local school board members. Review facts about them including involvement in education and with other community organizations. Furthermore, educate yourself on the jurisdiction the school board has over local policy and budget decisions as this can vary across districts and states.
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National Association of School Psychologists Issues Call to Action

KellyKelly Vaillancourt, PhD, NCSP
Director of Government Relations, National Association of School Psychologists

Recently on Care for Your Mind, Dr. Anne Marie Albano contended that schools are the right place for kids to get treatment for social anxiety disorder. Today, Kelly Vaillancourt of the National Association of School Psychologists offers an easy way for you to advocate for school-based psychological services.

In order to make meaningful and substantial progress toward increasing access to comprehensive mental health services, we must call upon our local, state, and federal policy makers to act. We need to

  • educate legislators and government officials about evidence-based policies and practices
  • encourage them to allocate the necessary funding to ensure these practices are in places in our schools and communities.


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