Good afternoon! What a good day this has been! This summit has enabled a crucial, much needed, national-level discussion on mental health.
At VA, we know that when we are able to diagnose and treat, people get better. The President knows that, too. So, between 2009 and 2014, he has requested funding increases for VA mental health totaling almost 57 percent.
Thanks to the President's strong and decisive leadership, VA has expanded its services as the number of Veterans needing mental health care has increased. He announced three of our recent accomplishments this morning:
- 24 pilot projects with federally qualified community clinics in nine states, increasing our mental health capacity through partnering at the local level;
- Local mental health summits at each of our 152 VA medical centers, broadening the dialogue between clinicians and stakeholders; and
- Over 1,600 additional mental health clinical professionals hired as the President directed in last August's executive order.
With his leadership and the support of Congress, VA will continue to improve access to mental health services and reduce the stigma of seeking help.
One of our most effective efforts to improve access is our Veterans Crisis Line, which provides immediate help to Veterans and Servicemembers in distress. In the past six years, the Veterans Crisis Line has answered over 800,000 phone calls and more than 100,000 other online chats and text messages. In the most serious phone calls, 29,000 Veterans have been rescued from a suicide in progress because we were there for them.
Partnering with local communities and other federal agencies can help make the most of resources like the Veterans Crisis Line and our additional 1,600 clinical professionals. And by working together, we can reduce the stigma for all Americans. Everyone can help, and everyone must, if we are to make a difference as the President has emphasized.
We are indebted to all of you for the great work you do. And now, special thanks to our next speaker, Bradley Cooper, whose authentic portrayal of "Pat Solitano" in Silver Linings Playbook helps to shine a spotlight on both the challenges and the triumphs of those dealing with issues of mental health. Bradley?