For Immediate Release - May 23, 2013

AG Coakley Awards $500,000 for Programs That Provide Mental Health Services to Veterans and Their Families

Funding Made Available Through Settlement with Life Insurance Company of North America

BOSTON – Attorney General Martha Coakley’s Office today awarded $500,000 in grants to help provide access to quality mental health services to Massachusetts veterans and their families.

Five organizations were chosen to receive the grants with funding from a June 2012 settlement with the Life Insurance Company of North America (LINA). In the settlement, the company agreed to pay $1.7 million to settle allegations that it marketed its health insurance through a variety of improper tactics to more than 1,000 Massachusetts veterans. Utilizing funds from the settlement, the AG Coakley’s Access to Mental Health Services Grant Program will allow qualified non-profit organizations to provide or expand services that offer access to basic care, treatment for trauma-related mental health conditions and suicide prevention programs.

According to the National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH), one in four adults suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year and one in 10 children live with a serious mental or emotional disorder. Due to the nature of combat, service members and veterans are at an increased risk for mental health problems including anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and substance abuse. Studies also show that 20 percent of returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans report symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression. The suicide rate among veterans is 22 per day according to a new study by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“For many of our veterans, access to mental health services is as critical as physical health care,” AG Coakley said. “Many of our veterans are returning from multiple deployments. These programs will help break down barriers to mental health services that many of them need and all of them deserve. I want to thank the Patrick-Murray Administration and Secretary Nee for their leadership and partnership in supporting our veterans.”

"Massachusetts is the national leader in veterans' services for many reasons, but none more so than the strong collaborations we have made to maximize our resources and provide world-class, comprehensive benefits to our service members and their families," said Secretary of Veterans' Services Coleman Nee. "The Patrick-Murray Administration and Attorney General Coakley have continued their commitment to our veterans and I applaud the Attorney General for dedicating these settlement resources to organizations and programs that are providing critical services to our veterans."

Four of the programs funded by the AG’s Office will provide increased services to military veterans and current service members, and family members. The fifth program will provide increased suicide prevention education to school districts in the Commonwealth. The following organizations will be awarded grant funding for their proposed programs:

  • Veteran’s Inc. will address each stage of mental health care, including initial outreach, identifying veterans in need of services, accompanying veterans to and from appointments, monitoring effectiveness of treatment, and following up on veterans’ mental health status for as long as needed to achieve stability.
  • Bedford VA Research & Education Corp (BRCI) will assist veterans returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan who have indications of stress and psychological problems yet may have difficulty approaching or accepting traditional mental health treatment. This innovative approach uses physical exercise as an intervention to reach veterans.
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) will train veterans for their peer-to-peer support program that provides emotional support to fellow veterans and encourages veterans to seek additional mental health services if needed.
  • Massachusetts Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children (MSPCC) will continue to provide military families and children experiencing individual and family difficulties as a result of medical, social, psychological, and financial challenges associated with the deployment of a family member.
  • Screenings for Mental Health Signs of Suicide (SOS) Program aims to decrease suicide attempts by increasing knowledge and adaptive attitudes about depression, and will encourage individual help-seeking and help-seeking on behalf of a friend.

The Access to Mental Health Services Grant program is designed to support the Attorney General’s advocacy on behalf of service members, veterans and their families, and residents of the Commonwealth, to ensure that they receive the highest quality healthcare, including mental health services.

Recognizing the unique needs of service members and veterans, AG Coakley created an office-wide Veteran’s Task Force to help ensure that Massachusetts veterans and their families have access to the full range of benefits and services offered to them. The task force is committed to furthering AG Coakley’s role as a consumer advocate by recognizing the unique needs of veterans through casework, policy, community outreach, and programming.

The case against LINA was handled by Assistant Attorney General Emiliano Mazlen of the AG’s Health Care Division with assistance from Division Chief Thomas O’Brien and William Mackay of the AG’s Civil Investigations Division.

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