Tester Pushes VA to Expand Mental Health Services at Helena Vet Center for Local Veterans, Servicemembers
Senator: “Veterans, servicemembers, and their families in the Helena area have earned and deserve access to the timely appointments and expanded programming provided at a full-service Vet Center.”
U.S. Senator Jon Tester, Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, is calling on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to upgrade the Helena Vet Center Outstation in Helena, Montana to a full-service Vet Center to provide expanded mental health and readjustment counseling services to local veterans, active duty servicemembers, members of the Reserve andNational Guard, and their families.
Montana is home to four full-service Vet Centers located in Billings, Great Falls, Kalispell, and Missoula. Helena is the only Vet Center in the state not operating in a full-service capacity.
“As the sixth most populous city in Montana, a state with the second highest percentage of veterans in the country, Helena requires the benefits of a full-service Vet Center to meet the needs of its veteran and servicemember population,” the Senator wrote in a letter to VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “…Veterans, servicemembers, and their families in the Helena area have earned and deserve access to the timely appointments and expanded programming provided at a full-service Vet Center. Upgrading the Helena Vet Center Outstation to a full-service Vet Center would also provide greatly-needed relief for providers serving veterans at the current Outstation.”
Vet Centers provide essential mental health care and readjustment counseling services to veterans, members of the military, and their families. The benefits of upgrading the Helena Vet Center to full-service include increased staffing and extended hours of operations, as emphasized by the Senator, to meet the demand for Vet Center services in the Helena area.
He continued, “Vet Centers play a crucial role in providing mental health care, readjustment and family counseling, employment assistance, military sexual trauma counseling, and other services to veterans, servicemembers, and their families outside of traditional VA health care facilities…I urge you to consider upgrading the Helena Vet Center Outstation to a full-service Vet Center to ensure more Montanans are provided access to this critical resource.”
The Senator’s efforts have been applauded by veteran stakeholders in Montana.
“NAMI Montana supports the expansion of care and staffing at the Helena Vet Center,” said National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Montana Executive Director Matt Kuntz. “This Vet Center fills such an essential need in our community, and it needs to be fully supported in order to properly care for all veterans in the area. The Helena Vet Center has faced an overwhelming client load since it began, so we greatly appreciate Chairman Tester’s attention to this important issue. It’s time to fully support this critical resource to better serve veterans in our community.”
“Helena being the capital of Montana and having a large veteran and service member population, the need is great for better access to VA health care,” said Veterans of Foreign Wars, Department of Montana State Adjutant/Quartermaster Tim Peters. “With the passage of the PACT Act this August and the extremely huge rate of suicides in the area, our veterans need quick access to care, especially when they are in crisis. Upgrading the Helena Vet Center Outstation to a full service Vet Center will have a dramatic impact on the local and area veteran communities. The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Department of Montana, representing more than ten thousand veterans, service members and their families, stands in full support of Senator Tester’s efforts in this matter and urges Secretary McDonough to make it happen.”
Read the Senator’s full letter HERE.