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Veteran suicide

There was an article recently posted September 4, 2020. I had to copy the article to paste it on this blog(I have it after my rant). This has been something that I have hinted in the past blogs that I would speak about and after reading this article, I just got so angry thinking how horribly the mental health department in the VA hospital operates. I also have my point of view of course from both ends of this being a veteran diagnosed with PTSD and major depression and from the aspect of the inability to receive care. There are so many veterans that suffer silently with depression and thoughts of suicide. Unfortunately I have been one of those veterans and I am lucky enough to have family and a partner(veteran with same issues) that I can lean on for support. If I was depending on the VA to help, whether it is with therapy sessions or meds, then I probably wouldn't be here today.


My journey with the mental health clinic started many, many years ago. I was lucky enough at some of the VA hospitals, where I was a patient, to have a couple of great Psych docs, but unfortunately in the last 3 years it's almost a non existent way to get help. I went from therapy 2 to 3 times a weeks to being lucky if I had an appointment once every 2 months! This VA here in Albany, our state capital no less, doesn't have enough mental health staff to handle all the veterans. They could give two shits if you are in a crisis mind set. Then there are the issues with getting meds. Psych meds aren't something to just take and stop taking. If you run out of those meds they need to be refilled ASAP. The VA sometimes gets them to you on time but overall there are weeks or months gap between the prescriptions. This is not ok! Coming off some of those psych meds can send you spiraling to a bad place. I was told when I transferred to this VA 3 years ago that there was a therapist waiting to pick up right where my other one left off. Well that didn't happen. Then when i finally got in to see her, there were no regular scheduled appointments. Sometimes it would take months before seeing me. I finally threw my hands up when she went on maternity leave, not that I have a problem with that, but the issue was she had no one to take her patients for over 3 months. Since then nothing, not a single word from that clinic. Oh but if you get visibly upset at another clinic (a non-psych related appointment) they are quick to slough you off towards mental health, all the while not addressing the concerns you were there for. I try to hold it together as much as I can at appointments. But a person can only hold back emotions for so long and then it just comes out in tears,anger, or both.


About two years ago, my boyfriend and I had just came out of appointments at the VA in Albany and witnessed something disturbing. There used to be smoking on the hospital grounds and they had a smoke/rain shelter (now used for wheelchair storage). Anyways I am including the picture of what it still looks like today below. I mention this because on that day a male veteran went in asking for help in a bad emotional state. He was turned away and told he had to go through certain channels to be seen and by the way these channels I speak of can take months or years of being shifted around. He went out and killed himself in the parking lot. Not only shot himself but in the process his car exploded and it was right next to this shelter. We seen part of this particular situation while leaving the building. That burned vehicle sat there for maybe 4 months, could've been longer but even 4 months was too long to have that sitting there. Totally horrific situation. There is no excuse for this and I don't know but maybe could've been avoided by helping this guy that was crying out for help. I know from experience that it takes a lot to ask for help and being told, "sorry can't help you in this particular circumstance", is just not ok. I am so disgusted that we as veterans have to feel that we don't have the necessary access to mental health. Honestly I personally feel they don't care, because it'll be one less patient they have to deal with. May seem like twisted thinking because everyone is always "thank you for your service" blah, blah, etc....In all reality they could care less. There are a few nurses here that care and do more then these doctors employed here. Even then nurses can only do so much, then they have to consult with the MD.


This story is only one of thousands. I feel like people hear a veteran goes off the rails and immediately they want to tell all the bad things about that person to avoid dealing with the real issues, like providing proper care. If they put a negative spin on that person then they can feel/be absolved of repercussions. I guess that makes then sleep better at night. Isn't that the way most things are? Place blame elsewhere and take no responsibility.




As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, the following article I posted below is entirely different VA hospital and a bit of a different story. But still the situation remains the same.....



 

Veteran dies by suicide after Memphis VA hospital provides inadequate care, IG report says

Veteran's suicide is latest grim chapter for Memphis VA hospital, labeled in 2018 as one of the five worst in the network of 148 hospitals in the nation operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs.



Editor's note: This story explores suicide, including details of how people attempted to harm themselves. If you are at risk, please stop here and contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for support at 1-800-273-8255.

A government investigation declared a military veteran ended their life after trying without success to get mental health drugs from the Memphis VA hospital.

The VA Office of Inspector General disclosed the 2019 death on Thursday in a report outlining its investigation into allegations of substandard care for the unidentified veteran seeking mental health care.

Investigators did not directly link the Memphis Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the suicide, but did describe inadequate processes in the hours before the death. They headlined their report: "Deficiencies in Care, Care Coordination, and Facility Response to a Patient Who Died by Suicide."

The account is the latest grim chapter for a major hospital labeled in 2018 as one of the five worst in the network of 148 hospitals in the nation operated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, a federal agency. In 2017, the department brought in career U.S. Army officer David Dunning to improve Memphis VA, which serves more than 68,000 patients each year residing in Memphis and nearby Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee.


Asked about the incident by The Commercial Appeal, the Memphis VA released a statement Friday afternoon in which Dunning described measures undertaken by the hospital to bolster services. He also expressed condolences.

"The Memphis VA Medical Center grieves for the loss of this Veteran and extends our deepest condolences to their loved ones," the statement says.

Although the VA hospital, located in the Memphis Medical District near Downtown, has outlined broad efforts to improve services, the suicide investigation by the VA Office of Inspector General focused only on the single incident and not widespread practices in the hospital. A summary of the report made available to the public does not identify the veteran by gender, hometown or military branch.


An article in the military-oriented publication Stars and Stripes said the veteran, in their 30s, had been a patient four years and had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. 


In the inspectors' report, the summary says the veteran one day last year entered Memphis VA,  told medical staff about insomnia and the need to refill psychiatric medicine prescriptions, and met with an emergency room physician.


According to the inspectors' report, the doctor evaluated the patient for suicidal thoughts and deeming the person fit to leave the ER, discharged them "with instructions to go to the facility’s outpatient mental health clinic immediately for medication management."

However, inspectors said no documents were found that show the patient registered at the clinic or received any treatment. The inspectors' report concludes Memphis VA "did not have a clear referral process for patients discharged from the emergency department who needed to be seen the same day in the outpatient mental health clinic."

The report notes the veteran had relied on mental health and medical care at the Memphis VA, including sessions with counselors. However, "counseling sessions were not authorized timely due to deficiencies in coordination of care between the facility’s community care staff, community care providers, and the third-party administrator," the report says.

When the veteran attempted to refill prescriptions, the medicines were denied, the report says, pointing out "facility community care staff did not obtain medical record documentation for community care treatment and did not ensure care authorizations were current, resulting in the patient’s inability to receive several medication refills from the facility pharmacy."

Stars and Stripes' account details more vividly the veteran's apparent steps after leaving the ER doctor.


"A family member who accompanied the veteran to the hospital told inspectors that they went to the mental health clinic, where they waited an hour before being told that the next available appointment was in one month," the newspaper reported. "The veteran was able to get a 10-day refill of one antidepressant that day but did not receive refills for a medication that prevents nightmares or another that treats insomnia. The next day, the veteran died by a self-inflicted gunshot wound. "


After the death and related investigation, the Office of Inspector General made 16 recommendations to Dunning, the Memphis VA director.

By Thursday, 13 recommendations had been fulfilled at the Memphis hospital, Stars and Stripes reported, noting Dunning h


ad put in place a new process  "for an emergency room patient to be escorted by an ER mental health provider to the mental health clinic for same-day care."

In response to The Commercial Appeal's inquiry, Memphis VA released a statement Friday in which Dunning described measures undertaken by the hospital to bolster services.

"Under the close supervision of VA MidSouth Healthcare Network Director Cynthia Breyfogle, I have been working for the last 13 months to personally ensure this incident brings lasting change and real improvement to our facility," Dunning's statement says. "Memphis-area Veterans deserve no less....The Memphis VA Medical Center grieves for the loss of this Veteran and extends our deepest condolences to their loved ones.

According to the Memphis VA, measures taken to improve patient care include:

  • Provided emergency department


mental health staff and licensed independent practitioners with a formal referral process for same-day mental health treatment.

  • Created templates to document communication between providers, including a discussion of disposition to ensure continuity of care between emergency department service


s.

  • Revised the "Emergency Department Mental Health Handbook" with clear instructions on psychiatric medication management for emergency department medical providers.


"Under the close supervision of VA MidSouth Healthcare Network Director Cynthia Breyfogle, I have been working for the last 13 months to personally ensure this incident DRAFTJS_BLOCK_KEY:5moqobrings lasting change and real improvement to our facility," Dunning's statement says. "Memphis-area Veterans deserve no less....The Memphis VA Medical Center grieves for the loss of this Veteran and extends our deepest condolences to their loved ones.

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