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Jun 19, 2013 10:45 AM by Ryan Haarer

Waning wars call for more resources at Southern Arizona VA

TUCSON- In 2006 around 925,000 veterans received mental health care from Veterans Affairs. In 2012 that number skyrocketed to more than 1.3 million. It's a sign of the times and the VA has hired 1,600 new mental health professionals nationwide to help this growing number of struggling vets.

In the past four or five years the Southern Arizona VA expanded their facilities to better address addiction, homelessness, and more rigorously than ever, PTSD.

"Here in Tucson we saw approximately a 50 percent increase in the number of staff in our mental health services and a similar increase in the number of veterans we served over that time," said Dr. Tim Mueller, clinical director for inpatient mental health services.

Many troops come home to find there are no jobs waiting, and often in a different state of mind.

"Sometimes they'll have a tough time adjusting coming back from Iraq or Afghanistan. They are good people, they just need a little encouragement," said Jodi Frederick, clinical director for rehabilitation programs.

Of the VA's 1,600 new positions, five of them were hired in Southern Arizona. All of them are social workers who will assist homeless veterans find housing and manage their individual cases.

"Our goal is to end homelessness by 2015. In order to do that, we need more vouchers and more staff to help do that. So the additional staff we have hired will be very helpful," said Frederick.

Dr. Mueller says the hardest part is getting these veterans in the door, to see exactly what is available to them.

"People and family members are very reluctant to help people seek treatment for mental health, feeling somehow they'll be branded or labeled," said Mueller.

The VA is constantly looking for mental health professionals to bring on board. For career information visit www.vacareers.va.gov. For more information on mental health services visit www.maketheconnection.net.

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