With more veterans coming home from war, Veterans Affairs officials are seeing an increase in those seeking mental health therapy. After several congressional hearings, the federal government is responding to the call.
Since 2007, the VA has seen a 35 percent increase in the number of vets getting mental health services. Just last year they saw 1.3 million veterans.
Now the US government is adding more to the staff, making sure it can serve them as quickly as possible.
The Department of Veteran Affairs will soon hire 1,600 new mental health staff members nationwide. Eight of those new positions will be at the VA in Sioux Falls.
"We thought we were doing a fair job and adequate job. But there’s always room to do better work. And so with the new staff, we see ourselves being able to provide better services for our veteran population and that’s something that we strive to do," Acting Mental Health Psychology Director at the Sioux Falls VA Jerry Buchkoski said.
Buchkoski says of those new positions, two will handle clerical work and the other six will include therapists, a psychologist, medical mid-levels to help with psychiatric care, and a case manager.
“Right now we have eight therapists. So that increases our population of therapists by 25 percent. So we should be able to see people more quickly, more often than we have in the past,” Buchkoski said.
He says it's wonderful seeing our government give veterans the attention they deserve.
"And in particularly to the mental health system. There was a time when mental health was contracting and for a very brief time I was the only psychologist on staff," Buchkoski said.
And while it's more money to be spent, he believes it's for all the right reasons.
"That shows a great commitment by our government to serve the veterans needs and I see that as being money well spent," Buchkoski said.
Many of the new hires nationwide will be in rural areas of the country.