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HHS, Department of Defense Agreement to Increase Mental Health Services Available to Returning Military Service Members

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Contact: OPHS Press Office
(202) 205-0143

HHS announced today an agreement between the Department of Defense (DoD) and the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) to increase mental health services available to returning war fighters, their family members and to military retirees.

"HHS is teaming up with DoD to increase the federal government's capacity to treat the mental health needs of our nation's heroes," said Adm. Joxel Garcia, HHS assistant secretary of health and head of the PHS. "The healing of our injured soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines is of top priority and the Public Health Service is honored to be a part of this program."

Many service members returning from armed conflicts are affected by mental health issues such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injuries, insomnia, anxiety, flashbacks, and depression.

To deal with many of these issues, mental health officers in the PHS' Commissioned Corps are being detailed to military medical treatment facilities across the United States to treat service members who are returning from overseas deployment, as well as retirees and family members. Some of the services PHS officers will provide include psychiatric services, counseling, and family and group therapy.

The DoD and the PHS signed a memorandum of agreement establishing the DoD-PHS Partners in Mental Health: Supporting our Service Members and Their Families initiative. A DoD-appointed Mental Health Task Force conducted a year-long study of the military mental health system, providing recommendations to DoD. DoD responded to the recommendations in its 2007 report to Congress with plans to create the DoD-PHS joint agreement.

In anticipation of this agreement with DoD, the Commissioned Corps recently began recruiting more mental health service providers, including psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, clinical social workers, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and other mental health care professionals.

"We are seeking the best and brightest to serve on the front lines of public health —individuals committed to the health and well-being of others and who understand today's global challenges of health promotion and disease prevention," said PHS Rear Adm. Steven Galson, acting surgeon general.

The Commissioned Corps is tasked with providing an initial 200 mental health officers to serve in various military treatment facilities. Officers will be assigned to specific locations within the United States for three years. After that, extensions to remain in an assignment will be negotiated between DoD and PHS.

The Commissioned Corps is a uniformed service of more than 6,000 public health professionals. Among the PHS' primary duties is to protect, promote, and advance the nation's health and safety by providing health care to people most in need and responding to public health emergencies.

The Commissioned Corps offers a career path for mental health professionals who want to improve the quality of people's lives and make a difference in public health. This new initiative provides an opportunity for mental health professionals to join the PHS and apply their expertise, knowledge and skills on the cutting edge of holistic health care for returning troops and their families. Corps officers receive competitive compensation, including health and dental care at no cost, tax-free housing, 30 days of paid vacation a year, and a host of other benefits.

For more information, visit http://www.usphs.gov/profession/behavioral/default.aspx

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Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at http://www.hhs.gov/news.

Last revised: March 05, 2010