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01/17/2020

Wolf Administration Officials, Sen. Mike Regan Host “Reach Out PA” Roundtable to Discuss Veterans’ Mental Health

Camp Hill, PA - In coordination with Governor Tom Wolf’s “Reach Out PA: Your Mental Health Matters” initiative announced earlier this month, Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller and Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) Major General Anthony Carrelli joined Sen. Mike Regan to lead a roundtable discussion on the topic of veterans’ mental health and suicide prevention efforts.

The Reach Out PA initiative is a multi-agency effort and anti-stigma campaign aimed at expanding resources and the state’s comprehensive support of mental health and related health care priorities in Pennsylvania. Reach Out PA will address many recommendations for improving mental-health services laid out by the Council on Reform, created last year by the governor’s executive order to protect vulnerable populations.

“I am proud to join Governor Wolf in encouraging all Pennsylvanians to reach out for help when they are struggling – and to check in on their friends and loved ones who may be in crisis and in need of help. My colleagues and I are here today to make it clear to Pennsylvanians that help is out there, and there is always hope for a better tomorrow,” Secretary Miller said. “At the same time, as advocates and leaders, we must acknowledge the weaknesses in the mental-health system and find ways to ensure that every Pennsylvanian has access to the care they need regardless of location, income and the type of care needed.”

According to a 2017 study from the University of Southern California, approximately 1 million adult Pennsylvanians struggled with serious psychological distress at least once in 2015. Of those adults, more than 27 percent had an unmet need for mental health care. That population includes 42 percent who did not receive mental health care because they could not afford it.

At Friday’s roundtable, advocates for veterans and mental-health care joined Secretary Miller, Maj. Gen. Carrelli, Sen. Regan, and U. S. Congressman Scott Perry to focus discussion on the mental-health needs and barriers to treatment for Pennsylvanians who have served in the military.

Veterans are 1.5 times more likely to die by suicide than Americans who never served in the military. An average of 20 veterans die by suicide each day in the United States.

“We appreciate everyone who participated in today’s roundtable discussion. Mental health issues affect everyone in our communities including our veterans and military families,” said Maj. Gen. Carrelli. “Extreme stressors of everyday life are causing health issues across the commonwealth. Many of these stressors are amplified by military service and frequent family separations amongst our veteran communities. We want to thank Governor Wolf for initiating the Reach Out PA campaign and state Sen. Regan for hosting this forum today to help us gather critical information needed to move forward for tangible solutions.”

Sen. Regan, who serves as Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, has held five bipartisan roundtables across Pennsylvania on the topic of veterans’ suicide that involved an array of federal, state and local agencies.

“Today’s forum was a great continuation of very important topics to improve the lives of veterans that may be suffering,” Sen. Regan said. “I appreciate the input provided by the Wolf Administration and look forward to statutorily establishing veterans courts for those veterans who find themselves in trouble with the law as a result of service-related issues such as post-traumatic stress injury (PTSI), and I am working to expand the number of Veterans Service Units in our state and county prisons.”

Secretary Miller reiterated the need for suicide-prevention strategies designed to work for at-risk groups, like veterans. On Monday, Secretary Miller announced the completion of an initial report that will be used by the governor’s statewide Suicide Prevention Task Force to develop a long-term suicide-prevention strategy for Pennsylvania. The report was informed by the testimonies and insights of more than 800 people who attended one of the task force’s 10 listening sessions held in 2019 across the commonwealth or submitted written feedback.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis or is considering suicide, help is available. Reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact Crisis Text Line by texting PA to 741-741.

MEDIA CONTACT: Erin James - 717-425-7606

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