OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Veterans in Oklahoma and across the country can now get free, life-saving mental health services in times of crisis.
Passed in Washington by Congress, the hope of the COMPACT Act is to help end veteran suicides by providing this free care.
Experts at the Oklahoma City VA say this isn’t just welcome, it’s needed now more than ever.
“It’s very big,” said Dr. Sarah Newman, the Chief Psychologist at the Oklahoma City VA. “We have many veterans that are in acute mental health crisis for a lot of reasons.”
She says over the last several years, the isolation from COVID-19, along with national and global tragedies have only caused this veteran mental health crisis to grow.
“We also know that there are more and more active duty officers and enlisted members that are discharging from the military and so our veterans population is growing,” Newman said.
Now, through the COMPACT Act, veterans, who aren’t enrolled to receive VA healthcare, who may find themselves in a suicidal crisis can go to any healthcare facility or VA in the community for free for emergency healthcare.
“This includes transportation to a facility, up to 30 days of in-patient or residential treatment and up to 90 days of outpatient treatment,” said Newman.
The Oklahoma City VA itself has a mental health intake clinic for veterans in crisis.
They can walk in and see a psychologist, social worker or a medical doctor or psychiatrist that day. Then they can be linked to a specialty clinic within the VA.
Newman says now being able to give these services for free to unenrolled veterans is a game changer.
“Veterans need to be able to get into the care they need,” Newman said. “We want them to not have to worry about that.”