Veterans Healthcare: Roundtable Discussion with Senator Shaheen

Manchester, NH – The Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester hosted a roundtable discussion on Friday, May 12 with Senator Jeanne Shaheen regarding Veterans Healthcare. Members of the panel included Nick Tolentino, Combat Veteran; Mark Boegel, MHCGM Military Liaison; Suellen Griffin, West Central Behavioral Health CEO and NH Community Behavioral Health Association President; Peter Evers, Riverbend Community Mental Health Center CEO; Nicole Sawyer, Clinical Psychologist and Rik Cornell, Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester VP for Community Relations.

The discussion centered on the current climate for Veterans health care services, which includes behavioral health services, and the pending impact of the new Healthcare bill recently passed by The House of Representatives in replacement of the Affordable Care Act bill. The House bill, as currently written, could adversely affect services utilized by Veterans enrolled in the Expanded Medicaid Program for mental health and/or substance abuse disorder treatments and could also impact future treatment options for pre-existing conditions such as Trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. “What we don’t need is more barriers to care. More expensive and less accessible is not what we need.” said Senator Shaheen. Peter Evers shared “Under the Medicaid Expansion 8,000 people in the state have already taken advantage of Medicaid services for substance use disorder.”

Currently one-third of all veterans access care through the Veterans Administration (VA) while the remainder of veterans in New Hampshire use private healthcare insurance. Under the new bill, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Disorder coverage would be optional in each State. Combat veteran Nick Tolentino said, “Veterans who have PTSD from serving our country who would no longer be able to get treatment because their condition would be considered pre-existing, is mind-boggling and terrifying.” Shaheen added, “The costs are greater when people don’t get treatment then when they do.”

Rik Cornell shared, “Veterans currently represent 1% of the population, but 22.2 % of all suicides each year, are documented Veterans.” Many on the panel expressed concern surrounding the level of support and mental health coverage veterans could access should the new Healthcare bill pass without serious modifications.