U.S. Military Mental Health Costs Skyrocket
[The following report is from NextGov.com, an information resource for federal technology decision makers, and the CRS report cited.]
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) just put a price tag on the mental health costs of the long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq: about $4.5 billion between 2007 and 2012. The Defense Department spent $958 million on mental health treatment in 2012, roughly double the $468 million it spent in 2007.
Eighty-nine percent of spending on mental disorder treatment between 2007 and 2012 — approximately $4 billion — went for active duty service members. Over the same time frame, the military health system spent about $461 million on mental health care treatment for activated Guard and Reserve members.
Of the nearly $1 billion the military medical system spent in fiscal 2012 on mental disorder treatments for active duty and activated National Guard and reserve members, CRS said more than half of the costs, about $567 million, were for outpatient active duty mental health care.
Between 2001 and 2011, the rate of mental health diagnoses among active duty service members increased approximately 65 percent, CRS reported. A total of 936,283 service members, or former service members during their period of service, have been diagnosed with at least one mental disorder over this time, CRS said.
The CRS report [R43175 “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Other Mental Health Problems in the Military: Oversight Issues for Congress” August 8, 2013], written by Katherine Blakeley, a foreign affairs analyst, and Don J. Jansen, a Defense health care policy analyst, said the reported incidence of post traumatic stress disorder soared 650 percent, from about 170 diagnoses per 100,000 person years in 2000 to approximately 1,110 diagnoses per 100,000 person years in 2011.
Though Defense spent $4 billion on mental health treatment for active duty service members from 2007 through 2012, the CRS report questioned exactly what the Pentagon got for its money. “There are scant data documenting which treatments patients receive or whether those treatments were appropriate and timely,” the report said. Additionally, “Reliable evidence is lacking as to the quality of mental health care and counseling offered in DOD facilities.”
Beginning in 2010, suicide has been the second-leading cause of death for active duty servicemembers, behind only war injuries. Between 1998 and 2011, 2,990 servicemembers on active duty have died by suicide, with an incidence rate of approximately 14 per 100,000 person years. However, the suicide rate among active duty servicemembers has sharply increased since 2005, reaching a peak of 18.5 per 100,000 in 2009 and declining slightly to 17.5 per 100,000 in 2010 and 18 per 100,000 in 2011.
Of the 301 servicemembers who died by suicide in 2011, 40% received outpatient behavioral health care, while 17% had received outpatient behavioral health services within the month prior to suicide; 15% had received inpatient behavioral health treatment; 26% had a known history of psychotropic medication use, most frequently antidepressants.
Of the 915 active duty servicemembers who attempted suicide in 2011, 43% had a known history of psychotropic medication use, most frequently antidepressants, and 61% had received outpatient behavioral health services within the month prior to suicide.
This and other reports persist in declaring that the reasons for high rates of military suicides are not clear. However, the scientific research documenting the connection between violence, suicide and psychiatric drugs is overwhelming. When you contact your federal officials, Senators, and Representatives, tell them to investigate the relationship between psychiatric drugs, violence and suicide. For more information about this relationship, download and read the CCHR booklet “Psychiatric Drugs Create Violence and Suicide.”
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