EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — U.S. Military Veterans in suicidal crisis will be eligible for free care starting on Tuesday. They will be able to receive care at any Department of Veterans Affairs facility or private facility.
“Veterans in suicidal crisis can now receive the free, world-class emergency health care they deserve – no matter where they need it, when they need it, or whether they’re enrolled in VA care,” said VA Secretary for Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough. “This expansion of care will save Veterans’ lives, and there’s nothing more important than that.”
The news comes after a person died and was found unresponsive in the parking lot of an El Paso VA clinic this week.
“We are extremely saddened by this loss and send our deepest sympathies to this person`s family and loved ones,” a Spokesperson for the El Paso VA said in a statement.
The VA adding that VA Police are now assisting the Fort Bliss Criminal Investigations Department (CID) with the investigation.
The VA offers same-day mental health care services at its main facility and each of the outpatient clinics.
Veterans are encouraged to dial 9-8-8 and press 1 for free confidential crisis support.
The City of El Paso’s Chief Military Officer tells KTSM 9 News that it’s important for Veterans to know what services are offered to them.
“A lot of our Veterans may have been told no in the past. There has been new legislature that has been passed through congress that is expanded benefits,” said Paul Albright the Chief Military Officer for the City of El Paso.
There is currently a link to the VA Access to Care website where it shows wait times for medical care at area clinics, some of the wait times are multiple months out.
However, the El Paso VA says the average wait time for new patients for general mental health is about 45 days but they say that wait time is dropping.
The average wait time for established patients for routine mental health care is four days.
“If you see a long wait time for an appointment, don’t take no for an answer, there are other resources available and there are also other processes and systems within the Department of Veteran Affairs to help speed that up,” said Albright.
Congresswoman Veronica Escobar says mental health and suicide prevention are a priority.
“We appropriated significantly more funding for mental health services,” said Congresswoman Escobar.
Escobar’s team sent a statement to KTSM 9 News regarding the $550 million secured for the new El Paso VA Health Care Center.
“After bringing back $150 million to El Paso earlier this year for the concurrent design and early site development of the new El Paso VA Health Care Center, Congresswoman Escobar championed and included $550 million for the construction of the health care center,” a statement from Escobar’s team read.
If you’re a Veteran in crisis or are concerned about one, you contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive 24/7 free confidential support. To reach responders, you can dial 9-8-8 then press 1. Chatting online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat is also available, or you can text 838255.