Nov 8, 2011 8:30 AM by Marnee Banks (KXLH Helena)
HELENA- The Department of Defense has released data about a relatively new mental health screening program for veterans.
The program is the product of legislation carried by Senator Max Baucus and was signed into law in 2009. It requires all returning military personnel to undergo a face-to-face mental health screening.
The bill aims to reduce suicide among veterans and help soldiers get help for post traumatic stress disorder.
The Defense report states all branches except the Navy and Marines have implemented the mental health evaluations. The Army has taken the lead by already screening over 400,000 service members.
There are currently over 3,000 providers have been trained in how to administer the assessments.
"This program is going to save more lives than all the F35 engines or the MRAPs that money can buy. This is absolutely critical and the key part to making sure that invisible injuries are looked at as injuries on par with physical injuries," Tom Tarantino from Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America explained.
The Montana National Guard started the screening program years ago and through the work of NAMI Montana it became required nationwide across all military branches.
Baucus says the legislation allows soldiers to receive confidential treatment for their mental health injuries.
NAMI Montana Executive Director Matt Kuntz says because the screenings are mandated and not voluntary it removes the stigma behind asking for mental health help.