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Veterans

Approximately 24 percent (almost 5.3 million) of veterans live in rural areas. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that half of returning veterans who are need of mental health treatment actually seek it, and rural veterans were 70 percent less likely to receive any mental health treatment services when compared to urban veterans. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has led various efforts to address mental health and substance abuse issues in rural areas, including telehealth and intensive case management resources.

Substance abuse frequently co-occurs with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Individuals may try to cope with the symptoms of PTSD by using drugs or alcohol. More than one quarter of veterans with PTSD also have substance abuse issues, and evidence shows that people generally report improved symptoms when both conditions are addressed in treatment.

There is some evidence that veterans may resist seeking treatment for mental health issues, so outreach efforts should be aware of the stigma issues related to substance abuse. Promising practices and outreach may involve community groups or include peer support.

Resources to Learn More

Make the Connection
Website
A collection of online resources designed specifically for Veterans and their families to help identify the signs of drug problems and seek treatment options. Resources include videos, information and resource locator, treatment and recovery locator, self-help materials, and self-assessments.
Organization(s): U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Rural Veterans May Not Be Receiving the Mental Health Treatment They Need
Document
This blog entry describes the challenges of addressing mental health and substance abuse among rural veterans and promising practices for improving access to care.
Author(s): Mutter, R., Ali, M., Teich, J., and Lynch, S.
Organization(s): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Date: 11/2016

Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Program Locator
Website
Allows users to search for VA Medical Centers with substance abuse programs by program type or by location.
Organization(s): U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Telemental Health Clinics for Rural Native American Veterans
Document
This issue brief describes a promising practice developed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Health Administration to use clinical telehealth outreach to address post-traumatic stress disorder, alcohol and substance abuse, and other comorbid conditions among American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans.
Author(s): Shore, J., Richardson, B., Dailey, N., and Byron, B.
Organization(s): U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Rural Health Promising Practices
Date: 2016