VA Hospital Holds First Mental Health Summit

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COLUMBIA - The Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans' Hospital held a mental health summit for the first time Friday. The federal government is requiring all of the country's VA hospitals to hold a summit to discuss mental health in their communities.

Leaders from organizations around Mid-Missouri who deal with mental health issues came to the event. It started at 8 a.m. and will run through 4:30 Friday afternoon at the VA hospital in Columbia. The goal of the event is to create a conversation between the leaders about how to improve the community's access to VA and mental health services. The summit specifically focused on helping veterans. Cheryl Hemme, the service line chief for behavioral health at the VA hospital in Columbia, said there is a great need in our community for veterans dealing with mental health issues.

"Mental health is one of those things that we try not to talk about, depression, PTSD, bipolar disorder, substance abuse. We try to act like it doesn't exist, but it effects so many folks, our veterans their families and...their ability to function in their lives," Hemme said.

The event included discussions on barriers the organizations face in serving those with mental health issues, access to VA services, local care for veterans, and the military culture and implications of certain treatments.

"It's time for us to all work together and work on helping our veterans improve their healthcare, improve their mental ability to get back into jobs, into work and family and help folks as they return from the war," Hemme said.