Tagged with: healthcare mental health ptsd veterans
June 27, 2016 is PTSD Awareness Day. While most people have some awareness of PTSD, there is a lot more to learn.
PTSD is an Illness
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health illness affecting 3.6 percent of Americans in any given year. PTSD is caused by seeing or being in a traumatic event. Fifty percent of Americans will suffer from PTSD in their lifetime. Veterans experience a higher rate of PTSD.
Although the initial onset of PTSD can occur as soon as three months after the traumatic event, it can be triggered several years after the event happens. Symptoms are complex and include flashbacks of the event, nightmares, negative changes in thinking, hopelessness, difficulty with relationships, aggressive behavior, depression and suicidal thoughts.
The root causes for the illness are a complicated mix of inherited mental health issues, life experiences that may include traumatic childhood events, personality and the makeup of chemicals and hormones in the brain. PTSD can occur at any point in a person’s life.
PTSD Among Veterans
Military veterans who have served in combat situations have the highest incidence rate for PTSD. One study found that among veterans returning from deployment, 9 percent experienced PTSD shortly after returning. Within one year, the percentage of veterans reporting PTSD jumped to 31 percent. A study by RAND found that approximately 20 percent of returning combat veterans suffered from PTSD.
The Veterans Administration states that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is the third most prevalent condition they treat. Unfortunately, as high as 50 percent of veterans experiencing PTSD do not seek help.
Mental Healthcare Cutbacks
Between 2009 and 2012 state budgets cut a total of $5 billion in mental health care funding. During roughly the same period (2005 to 2010, there was a 14% reduction in the number of beds devoted to mental health care. Public psychiatric hospital lost 45,000 beds. The effects of these cuts have far reaching consequences and may cost more, especially for veterans with PTSD.
Consequently, hospital emergency rooms experienced an increase in mental health patients that they are typically not staffed to treat. One hospital reported a 10 percent increase in ER visits between 2013 and 2014. During the first 8 months of 2015, the increase in ER visits jumped to 20 percent.
Another consequence of these cuts is an increase in crime rates compounded by the inability for prisons and jails to properly treat prisoners with mental health issues because they lack the training and professionals on staff.
Mental health care is expensive. Mental illness costs taxpayers $444 billion per year. Hospitals spend $38.5 billion to treat mental health patients. Another factor besides money in this declining state of treatment is the decreasing number of mental health workers in the world. Globally, one in ten people have a mental health issue, but only 1% of the global health workforces is working in mental health.
Veteran PTSD sufferers are victims of fiscal cutbacks. Fortunately, VA centers and other facilities are finding better ways to treat patients. Using Ambulatory Care Nurses to treat patients at these facilities is one way the VA could provide quality care at lower cost. These nurses have advanced training to effectively provide most of the services that a doctor provides.
The best long-term solution for mental health care treatment at hospitals and VA centers is the inclusion of mental health care professionals as a separate unit on emergency rooms staffs.
Another option is the use of telepsychiatry. In 2014, 27 South Carolina hospitals formed a telepsychiatry network to consult with patients via video. As a result, the length of stays (LOS) in the 27 emergency rooms for patients awaiting inpatient admissions dropped from 48 hours to 22.5 hours. One hospital reported a savings of $150,000 in the first eight months. This is a tool that VA centers needs to seriously consider implementing for the veterans they serve.
For more information about PTSD and where to find help: http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/index.asp
How Budget Cuts are Affecting Mental Health Care – An infographic by the team at Mental Health Care Budget Cuts