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Smoky Mountain MCO, State DMVA Launch New Mental Health Initiative for WNC Vets

Cornell Wilson, Major Gen. USMC (ret.), secretary of the N.C. Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and Smoky Mountain MCO CEO Brian Ingraham

Veterans residing in select WNC counties, 2010-2014 U.S. Census Bureau
Buncombe: 19,596
Caldwell: 5,264
Jackson: 2,977
Macon: 3,744
Watauga: 3,085
Wilkes: 4,757
Statewide: 709,471

The N.C. Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) and Smoky Mountain MCO (Smoky) public managed health care organization are teaming up on a new mental health initiative for veterans and their families in six western N.C. counties.

The program will deliver mental health and addiction treatment services to military-connected families who might otherwise fall through the cracks of the veterans’ healthcare system. Smoky has committed $340,000 to fund the initiative through June 2017 and plans to make the program permanent.

“Partnership and collaboration are crucial in supporting veterans who are coming home,” said Cornell Wilson, Major Gen. USMC (ret.), secretary of the N.C. Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. “The state of North Carolina is stepping up like never before by bringing more local and state-level resources to the fight. We hope this initiative inspires similar partnerships statewide.”

The program will serve those who may be ineligible for VA healthcare and to fill gaps in TRICARE coverage, the healthcare program for uniformed service members. It will provide care and treatment to veterans who have received “other than honorable” or “dishonorable” discharges due to offenses and behaviors that can be linked to Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Unfortunately, these veterans are typically ineligible for certain benefits and services and face obstacles in receiving treatment for mental health issues and addiction.

Six counties in western North Carolina with high veteran populations – Buncombe, Caldwell, Jackson, Macon, Watauga and Wilkes – will participate. Local county veterans service officers will partner with Smoky to identify approximately 60 veterans and their families, who will receive clinical assessments and mental health and substance use outpatient therapy.

“This initiative will also train veterans service officers in the Mental Health First Aid program, which will help them respond effectively to veterans in crisis and assist veterans who are developing mental health issues,” said Rhonda Cox, Smoky’s senior director of care coordination. “Additionally, we will provide housing assistance to low-income veterans and ‘Housing First’ training to federal Veterans Affairs staff to promote effective strategies to tackle homelessness.”

About Smoky Mountain MCO

Smoky Mountain MCO manages public funds for mental health, substance use disorder and intellectual/ developmental disability services in Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Buncombe, Caldwell, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancey counties in North Carolina. Access to services is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-849-6127. Visit us atwww.smokymountaincenter.com