High Plains Vets face long wait for mental health care

Jun 11, 2014

The Amarillo Veterans' Affairs Health Care System serves about 25,000 veterans in seven facilities in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, eastern New Mexico, and southern Kansas.
The Amarillo Veterans' Affairs Health Care System serves about 25,000 veterans in seven facilities in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, eastern New Mexico, and southern Kansas.
Credit amarillo.com

The Amarillo Veterans Affairs Health Care System ranks third in the nation for the longest average wait times for new mental health appointments according to a recent article from the Amarillo Globe-News.

Andrew Welch is the director of the Amarillo VA. 

He says a recent audit found the scheduling issues.  He went on to say recent data shows an average wait time of 61 days for new mental health patients. 

Welch says he’s surprised by the results because a team reviews all new mental health patients immediately to ensure they are seen as quickly as possible.

The Amarillo VA is working to fill vacant positions and eliminate inconsistencies in scheduling by making sure all staff are on board with the same processes says Welch. 

Additional staff has been hired for the call center designated for scheduling patients says Welch. 

The audit conducted on May 13 in Amarillo is different from the investigation of the Phoenix VA facility that has been the focus of recent controversy.

“What the IG (Inspector General) office was looking at was more specific at the Phoenix facility and some of the specific things going on at that facility,” Welch says. “The review they did here was a review that they did across the board at every VA health care system.”

The Amarillo VA Health Care System serves about 25,000 veterans in seven facilities in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, eastern New Mexico, and southern Kansas.