The University of Southern Mississippi’s Southern Area Health Education Center (AHEC) is one of only 16 priority sites selected to initiate a national pilot program targeting the behavioral/mental health needs of returning veterans.
The project is supported by a grant from the Federal Health Resources and Service Administration in partnership with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration.
“It is an honor to be selected to have a role in advancing critical mental and behavioral health services for our returning veterans,” said Stacey Curry, director of the Southern AHEC. “South Mississippi is considered a high priority area in the implementation of this program due to its high concentration of military families per overall population.”
The Southern AHEC will work in conjunction with the Southwest AHEC – another university affiliate – on continuing education training for civilian health professionals in 21 Mississippi counties. These “Train the Trainer” workshops are scheduled to begin in March with the project’s fulfillment of educating health professionals expected by September, 2013.
According to a White House report, more than two million U.S. service men and women have been deployed since Sept. 11, 2001. Of those, 55 percent are married; 40 percent have two children and 63 percent live in more than 4,000 communities nationwide.
Numerous studies have found that the impact on the psychological health of soldiers, veterans and their families ranks as one of the more pervasive and potentially disabling consequences of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“As our men and women return from Iraq and Afghanistan there will need to be civilian health care providers in place to assist the VA with the high demands related to the diagnosis and treatment of physical and mental/behavioral health issues plaguing our soldiers and their families,” said Michelle Pearson, Southwest AHEC director.
Created by Congress in 1971, the network of Area Health Education Centers covers 48 states, three U.S. territories and the District of Columbia. With 253 community-based regional centers serving rural and medically underserved communities nationwide, AHECs can rapidly train health professionals across the country.
For health professionals like Curry and Pearson, a project of this magnitude involves much more than fulfilling their administrative obligations.
“It is our duty, and it fits right in with the mission of our AHEC, to make sure our soldiers and their families receive the care they deserve and need,” said Curry.
For more information about the Southern AHEC and the veterans project call 601.266.5253 or visit: http://www.usm.edu/health/area-health-education-centers