Veterans left without mental health care amid COVID-19 pandemic

The statewide social-distancing rule has caused a ripple effect of problems for veterans in need of mental health services.

Posted: May 1, 2020 7:40 PM

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — Indiana veterans are feeling like they're falling through the cracks amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the stay-at-home order took effect, many are left without mental health care services.

"I was panicked, I was completely lost," said Cory Houston, Lafayette veteran.

Houston has been a veteran for more than 20 years. As the stay-at-home order forced many workers to move remotely, it abruptly left Houston without services he heavily relied on.

"I couldn't get a hold of my med provider, I couldn't get a hold of my psychologist," said Houston.

Houston struggles with PTSD. His counselor joins a number of health care workers sent home without equipment necessary to do their job. He's asking state and local leaders to step up to help Veteran Affairs.

"Give the VA the tools they need, like the laptop so that they can work from home," said Houston. "They need tools to effectively help veterans."

Because of Houston's circumstances, he has been connected with his counselor. Lafayette veteran Ben Mann, who also suffers from PTSD, says he hasn't been so lucky.

"I've called, nothing is available, there are no doctors available," said Mann. "I asked for the telecommunication service, they couldn't set it up. So it's been really challenging."

According to Christina Howard, Chief Case Manager with Mary T. Klinker Veterans Resource Center in Lafayette, the national statistic for veteran suicides is 22 people per day. It's unclear if those numbers are growing amid this state-enforced isolation.

"I understand obviously, you know we have to be safe we're not trying to spread the virus but at the same time, it's a struggle and as a veteran, it's kind of hard because, you know, we earned our medical care you know what I'm saying?" said Mann.

Howard is calling this need a crisis.

"We need to put this on the radar the same as we're putting, you know, the threat of eviction and food insecurity and of course people's primary health care, said Howard. "We can't ignore this."

She said they're looking for any help they can get.

"We're asking that the state step up in whatever form or capacity that they can to assist and make sure that we have a smooth transition, we're getting our veterans back into the mental health care," said Howard.

Howard said she has reached out to State Representative Jim Baird. She said his team has been responsive, however, there are still no solid solutions to the problem.

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