SALISBURY – The W.G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center (VAMC) in Salisbury hosted a mental health summit Wednesday, bringing together organizations and agencies with the hopes of strengthening mental health services in the Central Piedmont and Triad regions of N.C.
More than two dozen non-profit organizations and agencies gathered to discuss suicide prevention, Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran services, peer support, homeless Veteran services, post-traumatic stress disorder and military sexual trauma.
While the Salisbury VAMC is home to one of the few inpatient PTSD trauma units in the world, the Salisbury mental health department highlighted the need for regional collaboration of resources. In the opening remarks, Dr. Shanyn Aysta, Psychologist and co-chair of this year’s summit, said “We are a great VA, but we need you. We cannot do it all.”
Aysta commented that not every Veteran wants to use the VA, or knows the resources available: assistance that can sometimes change their lives.
“We want to make the best use of each other’s resources,” said Aysta. “We want to create relationships and a network with agencies that can help us better serve Veterans and their families.”
“Our VA really is a center of excellence for mental health. That is evident in the history of our facility which began providing mental health services to Veterans 60 years ago,” said Kaye Green, director of the Salisbury VAMC, “but we cannot provide the best services if we are not engaging with others in our community who are also providing services to our Veterans. We need to rely on each other.”
In addition to meeting on Wednesday to collaborate and build relationships, the Medical Center is looking long-term as well.
“We are also creating a directory of all the local agencies that provide mental health services to Veterans, which will be key in maintaining the relationships established today and allowing everyone to provide referrals and connect Veterans to other providers,” said Aysta.
The Salisbury VAMC Health and Travel Benefits Section Chief Michelle Bacon was also among the staff to speak at the Summit. “Veterans need to know whenever [they’re] ready – we’re here. No enrollment fee. No deductible. No premiums. With no money, you can still come to the VA to get care,” said Bacon.
The W.G. (Bill) Hefner VAMC and Community Based Outpatient Clinics served over 87,000 Veterans last year.