Starting in January 2019, the inTransition program began to help connect sexual assault survivors who were seeking mental health support to free and confidential services at local Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Vet Centers for counseling without a referral from Tricare or a military treatment facility.
Vet Centers are a great resource for service members needing psychological health support after sexual assault as they are often conveniently located in their local regions and are confidential; appointment records are not shared with any other entity to include the service members command or the Military Health System.
However, despite the offer of assistance for getting connected, the number of referrals when the program first started connecting service members to sexual assault-related counseling remained low, averaging about five per month.
Consequently, during the summer of 2019, inTransition changed their script whenever a service member phoned inTransition. Instead of asking if they would like to access sexual assault support, the counselors on the other end of the phone implemented a revised script informing every caller that Vet Centers offered care for sexual assault that was a) free, b) confidential, and c) available without a military treatment facility or Tricare referral. As a result of this process change, referrals to Vet Centers for this sexual assault care were nine times higher, an average of 45 per month. This number has remained steady.
This is a great improvement in the number of sexual assault survivors who are getting connected to psychological health support. However, we suspect there may be more people who could benefit from this support than are currently using it, thus we continue to advertise the service and seek ways to make seeking help easier. If you know of a service member who experienced sexual assault and is concerned about seeking care, please suggest they call inTransition for confidential assistance in getting connected.
Dr. Polizzi is the government action officer for the inTransition program at the Psychological Health Center of Excellence.
The views expressed in Clinician's Corner blogs are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Psychological Health Center of Excellence or Department of Defense.