Today, the Pennsylvania Senate unanimously passed Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf’s SB 81 to allow volunteer doctors to provide free mental health services to military personnel and their families.
SB 81 amends Pennsylvania’s Volunteer Health Services Act to allow retired or currently practicing healthcare professionals, such as psychologists, psychiatrists, and councilors, to provide free, voluntary mental health services to military personal inside or outside of a clinical setting such as a community center, church, school, or library. Currently, the law only applies to those who provide volunteer services to low income individuals.
Mental health professionals practicing in good faith would be exempt from civil liability, currently a major roadblock to volunteer doctors.
“Returning veterans are in critical need of mental health services, and volunteer doctors can be a critical part of meeting the mental health needs of our military personnel,” said Senator Greenleaf.
Senator Greenleaf learned about this issue from a retired psychiatrist who attempted to obtain a license to volunteer, but was denied.
Over 2.3 million troops have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since September 11, 2001. Over 40 percent have been deployed more than once. According to the journal of Military Medicine, 62 percent have reported receiving mental healthcare since returning home. About 12.1 percent are unemployed.
The tremendous number of people in need of treatment have overwhelmed the VA and many are reluctant to seek treatment because they fear it may jeopardize their career. Volunteer services require no paperwork, insurance claims, and are confidential.
“These men and women have undergone incredible stresses and so have their spouses and children,” said Senator Greenleaf. “Veterans deserve this help, and with so many doctors willing and ready to assist them, the Legislature should act quickly to make it possible.”
SB 81 will now go to the House of Representative for consideration.