VA makes curbing veteran suicides a top priority


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – U.S. Veterans Affairs Deputy Secretary Scott Blackburn says a top priority of the agency is to find ways to curb suicides among veterans and boost access to mental health care.

Blackburn visited with patients, doctors and administrators at the VA hospital in Albuquerque on Friday. Staffing shortages were among the concerns raised.

Blackburn, an Army veteran, said it’s unacceptable that about 20 veterans a day commit suicide. Of those, data shows about six receive care through the VA system and only half of them see a mental health provider.

Administrators acknowledged that recruiting psychiatrists has been a challenge in New Mexico but that the shortage extends beyond the VA system.

Hospital officials said New Mexico currently has a shortage of about 130 psychiatrists and is in need of dozens of primary care physicians.

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