New site for Montana veterans up and running

Feb. 5, 2014
http://www.greatfallstribune.com/

Veterans have a new online tool to find health, employment, benefit and other resources tailored specifically to Montana veterans.

The site, Montana Network of Care, is part of a national platform and has been offering mental and behavioral health resources for several years.

The new component focuses on veterans and their families and was funded by a federal grant.

Deb Matteucci, the mental health services bureau chief for the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, said the site is designed to be a one-stop shop for Montana veterans and their families to access resources available to them in their areas.

It’s focused on bringing health care resources to rural veterans to lessen long drives across Montana if there’s an available service in their area.

Matteucci said her department received a federal grant for nearly $1 million in 2010 to increase access to health care for rural veterans with a focus on mental health resources.

The state recently received another grant to extend the project until August 2016.

Along with state agencies and veterans groups, Matteucci and her team spent the last three years training and educating health care providers, law enforcement and raising awareness of the needs of rural veterans.

During their work, they heard that veterans knew resources were out there but didn’t necessarily know how to find them, Matteucci said.

She said when they started the project, less than 50 percent of combat veterans weren’t enrolled in programs through the Department of Veterans Affairs, meaning they’d often see the same providers civilians would.

Matteucci and her team spent time training and educating health care providers statewide about veterans’ needs and the care they might need related to combat injuries or stresses and to recognize signs of those injuries.

They also worked with health care providers to do health assessments and better referrals if the veteran needed specialty care through the VA.

Combat veterans sometimes exhibit behavior connected to their service that can get them in trouble with the law, so Matteucci said they also trained first responders to recognize the signs of possible post-traumatic stress disorder or other service-connected issues and divert them from the criminal justice system whenever possible and get them in touch with resources they might need instead.

Telehealth is also a component of their project since access to health care for rural veterans is often dependent on transportation.

“There are tremendous distances between providers, we can minimize that with telehealth and when they have a need, to be able to find someone who could help in the area,” Matteucci said.