New Program to Offer Help to More Veterans

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EDINBURG - Veterans who commit a crime can get the charges dropped if they follow the Hidalgo County Veterans Treatment Court Program.

U.S. Marine veteran Ace Netro is currently going through the program.

''[I] found myself in a very compromising situation. Unfortunately, at the time it wasn't good thing,” said Netro.

Netro said the program comes with ways to improve himself. ''Now I’m getting help from the veterans court, the whole panel. I'm getting help through counseling with Tropical and it's been very good,” he said.

Netro received an honorable discharge. However, his friend wasn’t so lucky.

"I guess for his situation he feels he can't get help, but I guess now starting in July, he'll get the help he needs,” said Netro.

On July 5, 2017, the Department of Affairs will accept other than honorable discharged veterans in a mental health emergency.

Under the new policy, OTH veterans may get help in an emergency up to 90 days. VA medical staff will also determine if the veteran's mental crisis is a result of what they call a “service-related injury.” If eligible, they could get more medical attention.

Hidalgo County Veteran Services officer Felix Rodriguez said many Valley veterans need this change.

“I would say that I have approximately no less than six or seven that have actually come in. I know of others that I'm not working with that do have OTH discharges,” said Rodriguez.

Netro said he will tell his friend about this change and others who need the help.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS reached out to the VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System. VA spokesperson Reynaldo Leal said they are ready for the change and have the necessary staff available.

He sent us the following statement:

Our mission at VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System (VATVCBHCS) is to provide the best care possible for the Veterans of South Texas. We have worked diligently to restore the trust of our Veterans and their families and made significant improvements over the past several years to include improvements in our mental health service. Today, our wait times for routine mental health appointments are less than two days throughout the health care system, and Veterans who find themselves in a moment of crisis have several ways of getting real-time help. This includes calling the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 (press 1), or text 838255, and visiting a local Vet Center.

While the exact number of Veterans who will benefit from this new initiative is unknown, the Mental Health staff at VATVCBHCS stands ready to assist them. Suicide prevention is one of VA’s top clinical priorities and we are encouraged by this most recent effort to expand access to care.

Leal said if any veterans need help call the Veteran Crisis line at 800-273-8255.


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