An assistant joint surgeon with the National Guard bureau in the Pentagon says she wants to encourage state and local partnerships with the National Guard – to help meet medical and behavioral health needs of military members and veterans.
Rear Admiral Joan Hunter says the effort is called the Guard’s Psychological Health Program. She says the National Guard itself doesn’t offer behavioral health treatment – but can partner with local groups to make that treatment available. However, she says the bureaucracy is so big, it is intimidating.
"There are many people in our communities that want to help," said Hunter. "They don't know how to help."
Hunter says the Guard wants to focus on programs that are evidenced based treatment programs.
"It comes down to who do you trust," said Hunter. "Which ones are really going to make a difference?"
Hunter says she’s impressed with the “ND Cares” program in North Dakota. It’s designed to help military personnel and veterans get the care they need.
"We'd like to see a seamless system, and truly focus on a 'no wrong door,'" said North Dakota Human Services director of Behavioral Health Pam Sagness. "We want to make sure that, if someone is in need of services, they can access those services no matter where they go."
Sagness says on average, the regional human service centers see about 800 military patients.
Both Sagness and Hunter spoke at the 2015 Behavioral Health Conference in Bismarck.