Mental Health Care for Texas Veterans - LBJ Policy Research Project

LBJ students with Curtis Meadows, Jr., Chair of the RGK Center Advisory BoardA group of LBJ School students recently had the opportunity to examine the complex challenges faced by veterans returning from service in accessing adequate mental health care in Texas. The study was conducted as the focus of a Policy Research Project (PRP) course led by Dr. David Eaton, Bess Harris Jones Centennial Professor in Natural Resource Policy Studies.

The study report provides an overview of services available for veterans at the federal, state, and local level, and a documentary developed by the students features interviews with veterans, service providers, and state officials with insights on the access and service delivery practices believed to best meet veterans’ needs. Project resources will support the recently launched Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute for Texas, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that identifies and encourages the implementation of mental health policies and practices to enable Texans to get help when and where they need it. 

Areas of need identified through the research include:

  • the transition period between return from military service to receipt of appropriate care;
  • outreach to underserved groups within the veteran population, including veterans with multiple diagnoses, homeless veterans, unemployed veterans, veterans dealing with substance abuse problems, those with an “other than honorable” discharge, and veterans who have suffered from military sexual trauma; and
  • addressing the “understanding gap” between civilians and veterans, which presents a significant challenge for many veterans reintegrating into civilian society upon return from service.

Holistic treatment was cited as a best practice to address veterans’ individual needs with examples demonstrating combinations of traditional services such as counseling and psychotherapy with alternative approaches such as tai chi, acupuncture, and equine therapy. Integrated care offered at “one-stop-shops” that provide counseling, medical care, psychiatric care, professional development, and housing and other services at one location was another effective approach. Finally, informal peer-to-peer support networks for veterans, their families, and service providers were identified as the most successful method used by veterans to connect and share resources. The mutual trust and understanding between veterans was cited as a reason why these types of networks helped motivate veterans to look past the stigma often associated with seeking services. It was also observed that the most successful nonprofit organizations involved in helping veterans were those guided by veteran leadership.

 

*image: LBJ students with Curtis Meadows, Jr., Chair of the RGK Center Advisory Board