Every dollar invested in evidence-based care for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with untreated mental health disorders results in $2.50 in savings over two years, according to a new report released by the National Council for Behavioral Health (National Council). The report, Meeting the Behavioral Health Needs of Veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom,finds that if all 210,000 untreated veterans with PTSD and/or major depression received appropriate treatment, the $481 million investment would result in more than $1.2 billion in cost savings.
To meet the unmet mental health needs of veterans, the report suggests expanding the role and funding of the nation’s network of community behavioral health centers. Currently 27 percent (657,000) veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are using community-based care. More veterans are moving from DOD-provided services to VA-provided services to community-based services. By 2014, 40 percent (970,000 veterans) will be using community-based care. As the nation’s specialists in treating mental health and addiction disorders, community-based centers are committed to outreach to returning veterans and to providing evidence-based care.
“Providing effective, proven treatments for our veterans is not just about saving money, it’s about saving lives,” says Jeannie Campbell, a veteran and executive vice president at the National Council. “Our veterans deserve the proper mental health services to support their amazing resilience and help them move toward recovery.”
The report calculates that of the 2.4 million active duty and reserves who were deployed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, almost 30 percent (730,000 men and women) will have a mental health condition. More than 18 percent will suffer from PTSD, major depression or a combination of both disorders.
Less than half of returning veterans needing mental health services receive any treatment, according to the report. Of those receiving treatment for PTSD and major depression, only 30 percent are receiving evidence-based care.
Untreated mental health disorders wreak havoc on the lives of veterans. One in three homeless men are veterans, and almost 60 percent of homeless veterans are minorities. The unemployment rate for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan is some 40 percent greater than that of the general population.
“We need a mandate and the funding to deliver the right care at the right time and in the right setting for the men and women who have risked their lives,” says Linda Rosenberg, the National Council’s president and CEO. “Our community behavioral health centers are dedicated to using evidence-based care to help get these veterans on the road to recovery.”
The report features a state-by-state analysis of needs, costs and savings, if Iraq and Afghanistan veterans receive evidence-based care for mental health disorders.