House of Delegates
6:12 pm
Wed February 12, 2014

W.Va. Legislature Study Finds More Focus Needed on Mental Health of Veterans

The 2012 West Virginia Veterans Survey authorized by the Legislature found that between forty and fifty percent of the state’s veterans report suffering from symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and twenty percent reported giving serious thought to suicide. Only fifteen to twenty percent of these affected veterans reported seeking mental health treatment.

The House Veterans Affairs Committee looked at a bill that would require continuing education of veterans’ mental health.

The House Committee on Veterans Affairs looks at H.B. 4318, focusing on the mental health of veterans.
The House Committee on Veterans Affairs looks at H.B. 4318, focusing on the mental health of veterans.
Credit Daniel Walker

House Bill 4318 would establish continuing education requirements for medical and mental health professionals to increase knowledge and recognition of mental health issues faced by veterans.

The requirements would apply to many different types of professionals that work with veterans such as registered nurses, social workers and chiropractors.

Delegate Barbara Fleischauer said that the main focus of the bill is to make sure these professionals properly know how to deal with these issues.

“We have more veterans committing suicide in the United States than are killed by combat,” Fleischauer said. “Not only that, members of this committee, including me, have had suicide in their family that is not veterans and our physicians and our councilors and we don’t know how to handle that.”

The bill designates that the Cabinet Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance will work with the boards in charge of the applicable professionals to determine the curriculum of the requirements and the number of hours of credit to provide to each.

The Cabinet Secretary may also make recommendations to the Legislature for additional professions whose patients or clients could benefit from the continuing education required by this article.

“A lot of times it’s hidden from the family but sometimes it’s hidden from the soldier himself,” Chairman Richard Iaquinta said. “He refuses to receive treatment and we want the medical professionals to be able to ask ‘Have you ever had these types of thoughts?’ in hopes of saving some lives.”

The bill was approved by the Committee and moves on to Government Organization.