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El Paso VA sees added demand for mental health services, food assistance due to pandemic

EL PASO, Texas -- Everybody has been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic in different ways. One community that is struggling more than ever is military and veteran families.

The El Paso VA has seen an increase in referrals for mental health services throughout the pandemic. Like most, they've increased their tele-health services in order to meet the demand. 

The charity, Blue Star Families found 23% of military family respondents without a pre-existing depressive disorder or anxiety diagnosis now report that they have those symptoms.

Many military families say they need mental health care, yet according to the same charity, 25% reported that need is not being met.

For some, they have to worry about other issues as well as mental health struggles.

The U.S. Department of Defense estimates the jobless rate for military spouses is 22%. When you consider this along with military families moving during Covid and restarting their lives, they're having additional issues. 

According to the Blue Star Families charity, 6% of veteran families were unable to make payments on basic utilities.

Some are struggling to feed their families.

The Blue Star Families charity found 7% of veteran families sought emergency food assistance in the last six months. 

If you or anyone you know here in El Paso is struggling, this is what they can do.

"Have them come to the main El Paso Va,” Rita Garcia, the VA homeless program supervisor, said. “Go to the second floor, behavioral health, they can access our services and even enroll at the El Paso VA."

If they don’t qualify for services, the VA can still connect them with helpful resources.

Usually veterans could visit a food bank, but the pandemic has forced the VA to adapt.

"Our veterans haven't been able to go out and access some of the food banks like they used to,” Garcia said. “Our team has gone out to bring food boxes to them. We're going to continue with that so they can have the basic needs."

By partnering with food banks, the VA has been able to get over 800 food boxes out to those who need them most.

El Paso / News / Video

Rachel Phillips


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