Veterans receive free emergency mental health care

The Compact Act provides veterans with free emergency mental health care starting this week.
Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 6:33 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Suicide is the second leading cause of death for veterans under the age of 45. Now, in times of suicidal crisis, veterans can receive free emergency mental health care.

“There are many people who stress, ‘Am I going to get a bill for this ambulance? Am I going to have to pay something since I went to a local ER or had to get a ride to the VA,?” Dr. Timothy Juergens, chief of mental health at the Madison VA said. “This should alleviate a lot of those concerns.”

Starting Jan. 17, the COMPACT Act, or Comprehensive Prevention, Access to Care and Treatment Act provides veterans with care from the VA or private facilities, and up to 30 days of in-patient or 90 days of outpatient treatment.

After being deployed, veteran Robert Waite says he sought care for suicidal thoughts twice.

“I had to do something to change the course,” Waite said, who is now the director of Dry Hootch, a veteran’s advocacy and support group.

Both times his care was covered by his employer or the VA. Now, Waite says this new Act will help even more veterans.

“For another Vet who may only be working part-time and not have medical coverage through their employer, this is a game changer,” Waite said.

While seeking help may be challenging in itself, providers hope this free cost of care will lower the barrier for reaching out for help and ultimately lower the veteran suicide rate.

Director of Dane County Veterans Service Office, Daniel Connery expressed gratitude that the Act was passed, hoping his office will now be able to give Wisconsin’s veterans more resources.

“I think the more we can do from a systemic standpoint to eliminate barriers and access to mental health services, especially in those crisis mode type situations, the better,” Connery said.

If you are a veteran experiencing thoughts of suicide, you can call the Veteran Crisis Line at 988 or contact your local VA or county’s veteran services for help.

In order to qualify for this free aid, veterans had to have served for at least two years of active duty and been discharged honorably or be a survivor of military sexual trauma.

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