NYSPA/MSSNY/NASW-NYS Urge Governor & Legislature to Include Funding for Critical Program Educating Community Primary Care & Mental Health Practitioners & Specialists to Care for Veterans

For Immediate Release 
March 14, 2022 

NYSPA/MSSNY/NASW-NYS Urge Governor & Legislature to Include Funding for Critical
Program Educating Community Primary Care & Mental Health Practitioners & Specialists
to Care for Veterans

As the Governor and Legislature work to reach agreement on a budget for FY 2023 by April 1, 2022, the New York State Psychiatric Association, Medical Society of the State of New York, and National Association of Social Workers – New York State urge funding be included for the Veterans Mental Health Training Initiative (VMHTI). The NYS Budget has provided funding for the VMHTI since 2008. The funding for the initiative is as important as the appropriation provided for an expansion Joseph P Dwyer Peer to Peer Program. The peer programs establish an important foundation and connection that empowers the veteran to seek out assistance making it all the more important they obtain care and treatment from a practitioner who has completed one of the trainings offered by the associations.

“As recently highlighted by the New York State Health Foundation (COVID-19 & Veterans’ Mental Health. January 2021), the pandemic has amplified veterans’ mental health needs and has presented significant challenges for veterans, including exacerbating mental health and substance use issues. We urge the Governor and Legislature to include funding in the final budget for the initiative, which, for years, trained thousands of practitioners across the spectrum of disciplines in veterans’ specific mental health issues,” said Jeffrey Borenstein, MD, President of the New York State Psychiatric Association.

Samantha Fletcher, Executive Director of the NYS National Association of Social Workers echoed such
sentiment, adding “recent national surveys have found a majority of veterans have reported their mental health has worsened since social distancing measures were implemented and more than half reported having had mental health appointments canceled or postponed during the pandemic, leaving them to play catch-up on addressing needs, some of which, have deadly consequences. We implore the legislature to include funding to allow for the continuation and expansion of the VMHTI. The data is clear that practitioners in the community need this education and training.”

MSSNY President, Joseph Sellers, M.D. notes that “The VMHTI, enabled by past support from the Legislature, has been a tremendously successful endeavor educating and training more than 7,400 community mental health and primary care practitioners and enhancing their knowledge and skill set for combat and service-related health and mental health conditions. The data indicates more than half of veterans and their families turn to practitioners in their community for care and treatment, which is why a program like VMHTI is so important. It’s the nexus between peer-to-peer program and access to culturally competent care.”

####