Toledo VA hires reflect focus on mental healthWritten by Paige Shermis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System has hired one new mental health professional who will be placed in Toledo and is interviewing candidates to serve in two peer support specialist positions.
The system made the hires in response to President Barack Obama’s Aug. 31, 2012, Executive Order to Improve Access to Mental Health Services for Veterans, Service Members and Military Families.
Nationwide, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has hired 1,600 mental health professionals for the first hiring initiative. The second hiring initiative involves the acquisition of peer support specialists.
“One psychologist in Toledo has been hired at the outpatient center. Veterans who previously wanted to file a service-connected disability claim for a mental health issue [such as] PTSD, depression or any other mental health issue related to their service had to go to Ann Arbor or Cleveland for the compensation and pension exam. Now, with the psychologist that they hired through this initiative, they can go through the Toledo clinic. That will cut down a lot of travel time for veterans,” said Derek D. Atkinson, public affairs officer for the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System.
Psychologist Stephanie Young was hired by the VA in August, and began working at Toledo’s Community Based Outpatient Clinic in November.
“I love it here. It’s been a great job. I got interested in working in the VA through my grandfather, who was a Marine. He was a very persistent advocate for veterans’ rights. … He passed a law or a bill where City Hall [in Buffalo, N.Y.,] has to have a bulletin board for veterans, so they know where to get services,” Young said.
Young, who graduated with her Ph.D from the University of Toledo in 2010, currently conducts compensation and pension exams for veterans. These are comprised of a general mental health evaluation to determine if a veteran has a mental health diagnosis, and then a determination if the diagnosis is related to their time in the military.
“I love it, just working with different types of veterans, working with different types of things they’re experiencing. The VA is different than other places; it’s an environment built out of respect,” Young said.
The candidates for the two peer support specialist positions are currently going through the interview process, Atkinson said.
“These are veterans who have been through treatment, through therapy, and they’re there to help other veterans complete their therapy [and] help coach them and guide them throughout the process,” Atkinson said.
The VA Toledo Community Based Outpatient Clinic, which is part of the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, celebrated its grand opening in November.
“There’s been a lot of praise and support for that clinic. It’s absolutely beautiful. We’ve been adding staff, and able to see the growth down there in Toledo,”
Atkinson said veterans are able to come to the clinic to see if they’re eligible for services, or call (419) 259-2000 to talk to an eligibility professional at the clinic.