Commissioner Diaz calls for behavioral health care program for veterans
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY – The Miami-Dade County Commission on Sept. 4 adopted a resolution sponsored by Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz urging the Florida Legislature to require the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs to establish a program to provide veterans and their families with behavioral health care referral and care coordination services.
Research shows that veterans suffer higher rates of substance abuse and mental illnesses such as depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and are at higher risk for suicide than the general population due to combat-related stress. However, a study conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a branch of the United States Department of Health and Human Service, revealed that only 50 percent of returning veterans who need veteran mental health treatment receive such services.
These troubling statistics recently prompted State Sen. Gayle Harrell to file legislation calling for the creation of a Florida Veterans’ Care Coordination Program under the state’s Department of Veterans’ Affairs to provide veterans and their families with dedicated behavioral health care referral services, including health and substance abuse services through program teams operated by Florida 211 Network participants.
“I commend Sen. Harrell for filing this legislation and urge the Legislature to adopt it,” said Commissioner Diaz, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who has been a strong advocate for veterans. “Providing our veterans with the mental health services they need is essential to preventing the tragedy of veteran suicide and allowing them to live healthy, happy lives. We owe our heroes nothing less.”