Military Advantage

VA Launches Telehealth Program for Rural Vets with PTSD

PTSD can lead to a risk of suicide. Getty Images
PTSD can lead to a risk of suicide. Getty Images

The VA has launched a pilot program that will offer telehealth treatment to rural veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The program is designed to take the treatment to the veterans rather than make the veterans come to the treatment. Many rural veterans must travel long distances to see a VA mental health specialist, and that can prevent them from seeking the treatment they need.

The new program hopes to improve access and make it easier to these veterans to get treatment on their terms.

Each veteran participating in the program is assigned a care manager who will communicate with the veteran regularly via telephone. The care manager also helps veterans access services provided by off-site psychiatrists and psychologists. Psychotherapy is delivered via interactive video from a VA medical center to a VA community-based outpatient clinic or to the veteran’s home.

The care manager also monitors the veterans’ progress and helps them overcome barriers to care by coordinating treatment on the VA end. 

“Our researchers have worked diligently in recent years to establish the safety and efficacy of PTSD psychotherapy delivered remotely, ensuring veterans will get the same quality of PTSD care as if they were in a doctor’s office at a VA medical center,” said VA Secretary David Shulkin. “We are excited to see this program help greater numbers of veterans living in rural areas and pleased that it will save them time and effort to get to a VA facility that is far from their homes.”

Participants may choose between the two main forms of evidence-based, trauma-focused psychotherapy used in VA: cognitive processing therapy and prolonged exposure therapy.

VA also offers several mobile apps to assist veteran and family members deal with, diagnose, and treat PTSD symptoms.

The program is currently operating in the Charleston, SC; Iowa City; Little Rock; Denver; San Diego, and Seattle areas with plans to expand in the future. 

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