Mental Health Access Team - Milwaukee VA Medical Center
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Milwaukee VA Medical Center


Mental Health Access Team

1. What type of Mental Health services are offered at the Milwaukee VA and outpatient clinics?

The Milwaukee VA Medical Center and its outpatient clinics, offer a full range of mental health services tailored to the needs of each Veteran and includes a range of evidence-based therapeutic approaches; this includes outpatient services, inpatient services, and residential services.

2. Will there be additional staffing and an increase in services with the new Green Bay Clinic? If so, how much?

We have doubled our mental health staff at the new Green Bay Clinic and treat about 2,000 Veterans annually. The Green Bay clinic currently offers several types of psychotherapy, as well as psychiatric assessment and psychiatric medication management. For more information on mental health services at Green Bay, call 920-431-2500.

3. I’ve been told that it takes a year or longer to get in for care at the VA, but I want to get in now! Can you speed this up?

An access team has been developed to speed the enrollment process for any Veterans seeking mental health care. This team directs Veterans to the resources in a timely manner, with as few steps as possible. From the time of initial contact with our clinic, the Veteran sees his or her provider for the first time within two weeks or so. We also offer same day evaluation in our Urgent Care and Emergency Department.

4. How long does it typically take to get care?

Urgent care is available on an immediate basis, through the Mental Health Urgent Care Clinic during regular business hours. For more information, call 414-384-2000, ext. 45760. Care is available in the Emergency Department at all other times. A mental health crisis phone line is available 24 hours a day. Call 1-800-273-8255, press 1. For non-urgent care, Veterans are scheduled within fourteen days of their initial request for treatment but may be sooner.

5. OK, so you get me in the first time within 14 days, but then am I going to have to wait forever for my follow-up care?

Follow-up is tailored to the specific needs of the Veteran, and is typically scheduled at a mutually agreed upon dates after the initial assessment.

6. I think my loved one has some mental health issues, but he or she is refusing treatment. Any suggestions?

There are numerous ways an initially resistant Veteran may become agreeable to mental health care. Some become agreeable after discussing things with their primary care provider. Others initially seek care (referral) at community referral services like Vet Center or become agreeable after talking with another Veteran or a trusted family member.

If these approaches are unsuccessful, our staff reaches out to Veterans and invites them to come in to meet one of our providers. It is important for Veterans to understand that the mental health treatment provided here is on a voluntary basis and will not be forced on them.

7. Can I force someone to get mental health care or to be admitted?

No. If you are concerned that someone you know is in dire need of mental health treatment, we can invite that Veteran to seek care here, but we cannot force them. If it seems they are at imminent risk of hurting themselves or others, it is best for you to contact law enforcement, which has authority to detain a person for mental health assessment. That assessment does not occur at the VA.

8. I’m afraid if I ask for care, you guys are just going to lock me up.

Milwaukee VA’s acute inpatient mental health unit is voluntary. Only Veterans who sign a form, indicating that they are entering voluntarily, can be admitted. As many as 28 percent of returning war Veterans are diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress. There is nothing shameful or wrong about needing mental health care. These wounds may not be physical in nature, or may not be seen by the human eye, but are every bit as serious. We take every Veteran and the treatment we provide very seriously.

9. Why should I come to you for mental health? I am afraid of what people will think.

Mental Health conditions are among the most common health conditions in the world, as frequent as high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Many people seek mental health care for common conditions such as anxiety or depression. This is an old stigma and does not apply at the VA. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

10. What type of mental health issues do you treat at the VA?

A range of mental health conditions are treated at VA. We are uniquely qualified to treat Veterans who are having emotional issues pertaining to or resulting from their military service, and in many cases, offer more comprehensive mental health care, with more options, than civilian hospitals.

11. What if I am misdiagnosed?

If there is a disagreement about diagnosis between provider and Veteran, a second opinion or a transfer to a different provider can be requested.

12. What if I don’t agree with the diagnosis?

A Veteran can discuss the concerns about the diagnosis with his or her provider. If a solution is not mutually agreed upon, the Veteran has the right to request a change in provider.

13. What type of treatment will you give me?

The treatment offered is tailor-made to suit the needs of the Veteran and may include psychiatric medication, psychotherapy, residential treatment, or acute inpatient treatment. We offer a wide range of different therapies including yoga, art therapy and music therapy, along with traditional treatment.

14. What hours is the mental health clinic open?

The typical hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., but some providers have clinics that are open earlier or later than that, or on Saturdays. Veterans can be matched with a provider who has clinic hours which suit the Veteran’s needs.

15. What if I have an emergency and need to be seen NOW!?

The Mental Health Urgent Care Clinic handles emergent mental health situations during regular business hours. At all other times, the Emergency Department provides this service. There is also a 24-hour mental health crisis line.

1-800-273-8255, press 1.

16. Who is eligible for mental health care at the VA?

All VA-eligible Veterans.

17. How many mental health providers are there?

There are about 60 outpatient providers at the Milwaukee location, and additional providers at the various community based outpatient clinics at Appleton, Cleveland, Green Bay and Union Grove.

18. What is the typical case load of someone on the mental health staff?

A full-time psychiatrist will have a case load of about 400 Veterans. A full-time psychologist or social worker tends to meet with Veterans for longer periods of time and on a more frequent basis, and thus tends to have a smaller caseload of about 200.

19. What is the difference between a social worker, therapist, psychologist and psychiatrist? How do I know if I’m seeing the right one?

All are trained at providing various aspects of mental health care. Psychologists, social workers, or other types of health professionals can be psychotherapists. The type of therapy they provide depends on their professional background and their specific training in different evidence based types of treatment. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who are attuned to the physiologic aspects of mental health, and can prescribe medication.

20. I’ve heard your VA offers more than just traditional therapy and medicine. What else is available?

There are a wide variety of groups and activities, some going far beyond traditional psychotherapy. One example is Battle Body LINK Retraining. This is a class that focuses on body movements and relaxation techniques. This teaches Veterans who have been trained into combat readiness to adjust back to a peace-time state of being. VA offers an orientation to therapy meeting where Veterans can learn about the whole range of other types of treatment available.

21. What are the charges for seeing a mental health professional?

There are several fee categories at the VA, based on service connection and on need. VA mental health services are free for any Veteran with a service connection for a mental health condition, over 50 percent service connection and for any Veteran within a certain time period after their deployment into combat. Depending on eligibility, there may be copays.

22. I work and can’t make it during the day are there alternatives?

There are some early morning, early evening and Saturday hours. There are also later evening hours offered for couples’ therapy. For more information on these programs, call 414-384-2000, ext. 42098. While the Milwaukee VA cannot offer therapy for the entire family, this service is available at the Milwaukee Vet Center. For more information on this service, call 414-434-1311.

23. I live far from a VA, and can’t travel in to see a doctor. What alternatives do I have in the outside?

The Milwaukee VA has community clinics in Green Bay, Appleton, Union Grove, and Cleveland, Wisconsin. Some other areas have mental health services provided through a video teleconference system. In some cases in which a Veteran lives in a remote area, VA will pay for that Veteran to see a non-VA provider closer to home.

24. How is your staff better able to treat mental health issues than someone in the community?

Our staff have specialized training and vast experience in treating Veterans who have mental health issues pertaining to military experiences, including combat trauma and military sexual trauma. (INSERT LINKS)

We also provide a wide range of rehabilitative treatments, including residential alcohol and other substance use disorder recovery programs and transition to work programs, which are not always available elsewhere in the community.

25. I’d rather just get treated at a local Veteran’s organization. They say they can help me better and faster. Should I just go that route?

Veteran’s organizations are a great resource for advocacy, especially in the area of accessing Veteran’s benefits. They also are great providers of social support among Veterans. They typically are not able to provide the same type of in-depth mental health treatment available at the VA. We consider Veteran’s organizations a great compliment to VA services, but not a replacement for VA mental health services.

26. What is the philosophy behind the VA’s mental health treatment?

We aim to serve the Veterans who have so selflessly served our country, by providing them the full range of mental health services. We follow the recovery model, which states that each Veteran is on his or her own journey towards health. We are here to act as a guide on that journey.

27. Is there anything else I need to know?

There’s always something new! Feel free to contact our clinic to see if there is something here that’s right for you!