Government and Regulations

SAMHSA Helps Improve Mental Health Care for Veterans

SAMHSA partners with the VA, DoD, and other programs to help decrease veteran substance abuse rates.


In 2013, 65% of admissions involving veterans in non-VA treatment programs were related to alcohol abuse compared with 37% of non-veteran admissions. Veterans also were more likely to report marijuana and less likely to report heroin as the primary substance of abuse.

Veterans’ substance abuse treatment needs are significantly different from those of non-veterans, according to Veterans’ Primary Substance of Abuse Is Alcohol in Treatment Admissions ( The report data are drawn from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Treatment Episodes Data Set, which collects information from substance use treatment programs across the nation.

Related: Lowering Veterans’ Opioid Use and Reducing Overdose Risk

One way SAMHSA has been partnering with the VA and DoD to improve access to mental health care for veterans is by integrating the National Resource Directory into eBenefits, where veterans can find more than 15,000 resources of information and assistance. The programs and organizations that are included in the partnership are held to quality assurance criteria, to ensure that each is “acting in good faith and making a positive difference” for wounded warriors, veterans, service members, and their family and caregivers, SAMHSA says.

Related:Accelerated Hepatitis A and B Immunization in a Substance Abuse Treatment Program

SAMHSA’s Service Members, Veterans, and their Families Technical Assistance (SMVF TA) Center works with states and territories to promote coordination of care among community, military, and veteran service systems. Models of care can be found in SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices, a searchable online registry of substance abuse and mental health interventions, many targeted to veterans and military families.

Related: Dr. Geppert on the Legal and Clinical Implications of Medical Marijuana

An updated guide featuring resources to support health care practitioners in caring for veterans, service members, and their families is downloadable at

Recommended Reading

The Statistics Behind Behavioral Health Care
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Alcohol and Insomnia: Dangerous Synergy
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VA Cracks Down on the “Candy Man”
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Joining Forces to Reduce Opioid-Related Death
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Weaving a Safety Net to Protect Against Suicide
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