Free mental health care to start for vets

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Beginning today, recently discharged Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans can receive free mental health care for up to a year.

The New Mexico Veterans Counseling and Therapy Project is a statewide initiative with nearly 500 health care institutions, licensed counselors and therapists.

“This is the first collaborative effort between private and state agencies in the country to provide statewide pro-bono mental health counseling for Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans,” said New Mexico Department of Veterans’ Services Secretary Timothy Hale. “This means nearly 500 veterans in the state can receive the immediate help they need now rather than waiting for any veterans’ benefits paperwork to be filled out and processed – which can take awhile to be completed.”

Veterans anywhere in the state can go online to www.bhsdstar.org, which will direct them to their nearest participating mental health professional. Counselors and therapists can also go to the website or call to register to participate in the project.

The U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs estimates at least 15 percent of the nearly 2.4 million Americans who’ve served in Iraq or Afghanistan may be affected by post-traumatic stress disorder or other post-combat behavioral issues.

According to the VA, more than 50,000 New Mexicans have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“This project has pulled together a team of highly qualified, licensed practitioners in every county in the state,” said Adrian Apodaca, an Iraq war veteran and special programming manager for the New Mexico Behavioral Health Services Division.

“These practitioners signed up for the program wanting to give something back to the men and women who have made the sacrifice to secure our nation’s future.”

Veterans from other war eras can go to the Presbyterian Medical Services website at www.nmvets.com for information on available services.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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