AUGUSTA — Veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will find more help at home thanks to federal money that will pay for three additional mental health clinicians at VA Maine Healthcare System-Togus.

The three based in Augusta are in addition to two more in Lewiston and one in Portland, said Ryan Lilly, associate medical center director.

“What we’re seeing, especially from returning veterans, is mental health concerns are utmost in their medical needs,” he said.

Lilly said substance abuse and suicide are chief among the mental health concerns.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki said in a statement that nationwide the department will add 1,600 mental health clinicians and nearly 300 support staff.

“Mental health services must be closely aligned with veterans’ needs and fully integrated with health care facility operations,” said VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. Robert Petzel, according to the statement.

Since 2007, the VA nationwide has seen a 35 percent increase in the number of veterans receiving mental health services and has increased staff by 41 percent.

Lilly said they want to fill the positions locally “as soon as humanly possible.” The new hires will join 99 mental health staffers working at VA facilities across the state, 48 of whom are stationed at Togus.

“The mental health operation here is by far the largest within our state,” he said.

Susan Cover — 621-5643

[email protected]


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