Local VA Hospital Ramping up Efforts to Fight Veteran Suicides

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A major overhaul of the health records at the Department of Veterans Affairs is seen by doctors as a huge step towards cutting down on suicides, 1200 WOAI news reports.

"Ease of access to the data will make it much more likely that we're going to identify things that we haven't in the past," Robert Walton, head of San Antonio's Audie Murphy VA Hospital, says.

Earlier this month, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced they would be changing the database that holds patient information to match what the Department of Defense uses.  The move eliminates the VA’s outdated and inefficient computer system.  

The end result?  The two agencies will be able to efficiently share veterans' health information, solving a problem that has plagued the VA for decades.

Dr Nicole Braida, who heads up mental health care at Audie Murphy, cheers the move, which will easily give doctors a clear picture of what a veteran went through on active duty.

"Right now, we have to rely on a veteran being a good historian, and sometimes they don’t remember what meds they were on," she says.

Curbing veteran suicides has been a major focal point for the VA.  They hit a peak of 22 veterans per day in 2012, and now hover closer to 20 per day, according to the Centers for Disease Control.  A total of 478 were confirmed in 2016 among both active and reserve personnel.

The hope is that, with ease of access, doctors can see red flags early, and target veterans who would benefit from extra help.  Dr. Braida says, for example, they'll know the circumstances surrounding a soldier's discharge.  If it involved drugs or alcohol, that could be a warning sign.

"Whatever conflicts or problems they had in the military, you can’t expect that they are going to away when they are no longer on active duty."

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