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Behavioral Health Forum Addresses Needs of 1.1 Million Veterans in PA

News for Immediate Release

Nov. 7, 2013


Behavioral Health Forum Addresses Needs of 1.1 Million Veterans in PA

Harrisburg – The Department of Public Welfare today hosted a Behavioral Health Forum that focused on addressing the needs and improving access to care for more than 1.1 million veterans, service members and their families in Pennsylvania.


Veterans and service men and women often have higher behavioral health risk factors attributed from combat trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, drug and alcohol use, readjustment difficulties and a fear for seeking help.


“Governor Corbett is committed to ensuring that our veterans and their families can effectively reintegrate into their communities and are able to enjoy a quality of life that embraces their dedication and sacrifices to our country,” said Public Welfare Secretary Beverly D. Mackereth. “All levels of government have a responsibility to address the issues of our veterans and their families. Our goal is to ensure that veterans have access to government assistance through a coordinated approach.”


The Department of Public Welfare is working collaboratively with the Departments of Military and Veterans Affairs, Drug and Alcohol Programs, and Corrections to educate, raise awareness, and provide hands-on suicide prevention training and cultural sensitivity training for providers. 


In the United States, between 5,000 and 6,500 veterans commit suicide annually, accounting for 20 percent of all suicides in the United States. Pennsylvania has the fourth largest veteran population in the country.


“There is a stigma that recovery from a mental illness is not possible, which is simply not true,” said Mackereth. “We are focused on educating everyone about early detection and intervention, which will ultimately lead to successful recovery and higher quality of life.” 


“Pennsylvania is home to more than 950,000 veterans, earning us the distinction of having the fourth largest veteran population in the nation,” said Brigadier General (Ret.) Jerry G. Beck Jr., DMVA’s deputy adjutant general for veterans affairs. “These veterans represent a broad spectrum of diversity and unique need that is based on the challenges of service that spans WWII, Korea, Vietnam and the many facets of the Global War on Terror.”

“For the more than 1.3 million Americans who have fought more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan, some of their toughest challenges don’t come on the battlefield,” Beck added. “They come months and sometimes years after they come home. For these brave young men and women, their expertise on the battlefield might not be easily translated to a resume or college application or they may struggle to reconnect with friends and loved ones who have never seen what war looks like firsthand.”


In May, the Department of Public Welfare launched a behavioral health campaign called Mental Health Matters that builds awareness around mental health and focuses on understanding the signs and symptoms that will allow families, friends, and communities to understand and connect with someone who is struggling with the illness. 


For more information, visit


Media contact:  Carey Miller, 717-425-7606




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