Puerto Rico Bound: Vet Center Mobile Health Unit to provide mental health services across the island

A Charlotte Vet Center Mobile Health Clinic recently made a stop at the Charlotte VA Health...
A Charlotte Vet Center Mobile Health Clinic recently made a stop at the Charlotte VA Health Care Center en route to Puerto Rico.(Luke Thompson, Salisbury VA Medical Media)
Published: Nov. 23, 2021 at 6:40 AM EST
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SALISBURY, N.C. (WBTV) - Provided to WBTV by Todd Goodman, Salisbury VA Public Affairs officer: A Charlotte Vet Center Mobile Health Clinic recently made a stop at the Charlotte VA Health Care Center en route to Puerto Rico. During its stop, leaders from Salisbury VA Health Care System and Charlotte Vet Center talked partnerships, goals, and how the VA and Vet Centers benefit one another.

Vet Centers, which began in 1979, strictly serve combat Veterans. Its staff see Veterans in their brick-and-mortar facility but much of their work is done out in the community.

“We do outreach in rural areas and do counseling as needed,” said Air Force Veteran Lance Nelson, Veterans Outreach program specialist for Charlotte Vet Center. “It’s our job to get out in the community and find those needs.”

The Vet Center is comprised of social workers, psychologists, licensed professional counselors, and now licensed marriage and family therapists. Its staff treats the entire family, not just the Veteran.

“We work with combat Veterans and Veterans who have military sexual trauma as well as provide bereavement counseling for family members who lost a loved one while serving on active duty,” he said.

Nelson’s aim is to increase knowledge among the community and VA about Vet Center programs and how the two organizations benefit one another.

“My goal is to make sure VA frontline workers are aware of the Vet Center programs,” he said. “We do secondary mental health counseling and we request the Veteran have a primary care provider or a psychiatrist at the VA to prescribe medication.”

Charlotte Vet Center Director Chauncey McLeod said his main role is to get out in the community to let everyone know the Vet Center’s mission.

“It’s a symbiotic relationship that when functioning properly can truly enhance Veteran care,” he said. “It’s that one team, one VA.”

For instance, Vet Center counselors can supplement mental health care and free up VA staff to see more patients in a timelier manner.

“The majority of our Veterans are getting care from either Salisbury VA or Charlotte HCC,” said McLeod. “We spend a lot of time talking back and forth with VA providers to best meet the needs of the Veterans. It’s not us and them … it’s we.”

Salisbury VA Director Joseph Vaughn concurs and appreciates the partnership between the two organizations.

“Having the mobile outreach capabilities the Vet Center has and being able to go out into communities and rural areas to access Veterans—especially those with PTSD—is huge,” said Vaughn. “This gives many Veterans access to counseling and family services that they may not otherwise have.”

Vet Centers have 80 mobile health clinics nationwide. This one headed to Puerto Rico will arrive toward the end of November and help staff reach rural Veterans all over the island.

“We’re really fortunate to have tools like this available to make sure our Veterans get the care they need,” said Vaughn. “In the end, that’s really what it’s all about.”

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