Long after active duty ends, some of our service members and families face a growing drug crisis – opioid overdoses. According to a study by Veterans Affairs, veterans are twice as likely to die from overdoses as civilians.
Between 2010-15, the number of veterans addicted to opioids rose 55 percent to roughly 68,000 individuals, according to the VA. This figure represents about 13 percent of all veterans currently prescribed opioids. More than 63 percent of veterans receiving chronic opioid treatment for pain also have a mental health diagnosis.
What’s more daunting is that many veterans haven’t received adequate treatment because of numerous barriers, including the stigma associated with seeking help, access to a variety of treatment options and lack of understanding about the complexity of mental health and substance abuse problems, especially as it relates to service members’ experience.
Last month, joined by almost 1,000 advocates, our Centerstone leaders recently attended the National Council for Behavioral Health’s annual Hill Day in Washington, D.C., to discuss why it is important for all Americans to have access to quality behavioral health services. As leaders in the field of mental health services, our Centerstone team works with individuals who are working to overcome opioid addiction by offering tailored, evidence-based treatment, including medication-assisted treatment (MAT), intensive outpatient services involving clinical case managers, peer support specialists, counseling and behavioral therapy.
Help is available, and recovery is possible. One of the most crucial steps is asking for help. Numerous programs, treatment facilities and rehabilitation options are in place to help our service members, veterans and loved ones. In addition to behavioral health services, Centerstone offers online support groups to the entire family, because we know addiction has a ripple effect on individuals, families and communities.
At Centerstone, we deliver care that changes people’s lives, including the lives of service members and veterans. Centerstone Indiana is an active member in the Centerstone Military Services provider network, and Thelma Chandler continues her role as director of Centerstone Indiana Military Services. Thelma serves as a liaison to coordinate integrated wraparound services to address behavioral health and addictions issues for military families in our communities.
This month, in acknowledgment of Veterans Day, we show our gratitude to military families and honor those who have served and made sacrifices for our country. While we can’t fully repay our service members or their families for their service, we can thank our heroes every day and support them in finding and accessing the services they need to thrive. We invite individuals and corporations to join us in supporting our heroes through charitable gifts and partnerships. To learn more, visit centerstone.org.
Retired Col. Kent Crossley is the executive director of Centerstone Military Services, which offers confidential, free services to individuals and families facing post-traumatic stress disorder and other invisible wounds of military service.
Suzanne Koesel, LCSW, is chief executive officer of Centerstone, a nonprofit organization that has provided a wide range of mental health, substance abuse, education and integrated health services to Indiana residents for 60 years.