Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Treating Vets in CA & NV

The VA’s Central California Health Care System provides high tech healthcare in the San Joaquin Valley, a largely rural and agricultural area in the heart of California. Today, rural veterans living in the area are receiving health services in their homes and at community-based outpatient clinics in Merced, Tulare, and Oakhurst in California.

Since opening in spring 2011, the Oakhurst clinic has used telehealth to serve many patients by transmitting skin and wound images, sending real-time heart and lung sounds, and also sending images of the eyes, ears, nose, and throat to providers at remote locations. All three Community-based Outpatient Clinics can store and send retinal screening and skin images to other providers in the VA network.

The VA also provides a van in rural areas five days a week to provide veterans with free transportation to their nearest local clinic or main medical center. There are plans to expand existing programs and begin providing wound care and ear, nose, and throat telehealth services in coming years.

In another part of the state, the VA’s Northern California Health Care System has a telehealth program. The program uses state-of-the-art equipment including specialized cameras, a video system called Global Media Unit, plus the Health Buddy phone-based system.

Currently, telehealth services are available to certain patients for retinal imaging, surgical follow-up, neurology and prosthetics, as well as home-based management of some chronic conditions. More clinics are going to be added in the coming year.

In Nevada, a Veterans Court was established in Reno Nevada to address the unique problems that veterans have to deal with after their war time service. Substance abuse and mental health issues often lead to the arrest and imprisonment of veterans however, many times these Veterans are totally unaware of the services available to them through the VA. The Vet Court brings VA staff into the courtroom where defendants are able to quickly access VA resources and receive help. The judge monitors the progress of the veterans over time.

As soon as a veteran joins the program, they are connected to their Veterans Justice Outreach Coordinator, and also connected to a pretrial service officer. Both help to get the veterans into treatment at the VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System in Reno and in addition, help the veterans secure benefits they may not have known about. Of the 53 veterans who have gone through the program, none have reoffended.