To be a caregiver for someone we love is one of the toughest roles we may take on in our lifetime. And many veteran caregivers selflessly accept their daily caregiving responsibilities as something to treasure, because these actions grant them more time with their loved one.
However, it can also, at times, cause caregivers to feel overwhelmed, or to experience periods of isolation and stress.
To aid veteran caregivers during these difficult times, the VA has launched a new virtual pilot program to provide mental health services for caregivers enrolled in the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC).
MOAA first reported on this program late last year as one of several initiatives the VA was expected to roll out in 2023 — a year designated as “The Year of the Caregiver.”
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“This program is a significant step forward in addressing the mental health needs of caregivers enrolled in PCAFC,” said Dr. Colleen Richardson, executive director of the Caregiver Support Program (CSP). “Through these virtual clinical resource hubs, CSP will provide the mental health resources our nation’s caregivers and their veterans need through counseling and support.”
Congress directed the VA to expand PCAFC in the 2018 MISSION Act. Specifically, the law required the VA to provide counseling, training, and mental health services (excluding medication management) to caregivers enrolled in PCAFC.
The pilot program, established by CSP in coordination with the VA Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, will rely on the resource hubs – a VA.gov article described the hubs as specialized centers focused “on the unique mental health needs of caregivers through evidence-based therapeutic modalities with services centered around couples, family therapy and the individual needs of the caregiver.”
While most care will come virtually, caregivers will have access to in-person services. If this first wave of implementation is successful, then the initiative will roll out two additional waves sometime in FY 2024.
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More than 2,300 veteran caregivers across the country may be eligible for these tele-mental health services, as VA’s first clinical resource hub began seeing caregivers within the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks on May 1. The hub will serve the following locations:
- Fayetteville and Little Rock, Ark.
- Gulf Coast and Jackson, Miss.
- Alexandria, Shreveport, and New Orleans, La.
The VA also is in the process of hiring a clinical director to oversee implementation and manage the pilot program at the national level. Each clinical hub is expected to employ three psychotherapists and one advanced medical support assistant to provide mental health counseling and support services to eligible caregivers.
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