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Veterans Affairs Commissioner seeks to increase mental health help for vets

Early on in the pandemic, the state Department of Veterans Affairs implemented very strict mitigation protocols.  Commissioner Tom Saadi says it turned out that those were also very appropriate measures.  They established COVID-19 isolation and recovery wings in the residential facility and skilled nursing facility.  The agency has developed a reasonable capacity to do regular testing as well. 

Saadi says the summer months saw very limited infections among veterans and staff, but as community spread is on the rise, their residents and patients are not immune.

There are many related impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, and one is the effect on mental health. 

Saadi notes that many veteran service organization posts and halls have not reopened, and for those that have--people are still concerned about going to them.  He's a member of Danbury posts, and the percentage of attendance has been capped.  He says there have been virtual meetings and discussions online instead.  Saadi notes that it doesn't replace in person interactions, but is a temporary hold over until there are better therapeutics and a vaccine.

Those who have been in combat and have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Traumatic Brain Injuries and other visible or invisible wounds have an increasing need for for mental health services.  The state DVA is working with the federal VA and other state agencies to address that.  But Saadi encouraged people to reach out to their veteran friends and family, not necessarily to talk about their service, but just to find out how they're doing.

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Jim Bohannon

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