A new mental health policy could make it easier for Livingston County veterans in non-emergency situations to catch some extra help that the VA may not offer.

The Livingston County Veterans Committee took another look at a proposed Mental Health Relief Policy, during their meeting Wednesday night. Veterans Services Director Mary Durst said the policy is for secondary, ancillary help, and is not meant to be for emergency, crisis-scenario type help. The policy is for programs that may fall through the cracks for what the VA offers, like equine therapy as was used for an example, that could be beneficial to an “everyday Joe” veteran who just needs a little extra help. Veterans Committee Chairman Joe Riker said the policy could even extend to marriage and family counseling, as the nearest center that the VA offers that type of therapy is roughly an hour away. He said that it may be asking a lot for a vet and their family to drive out to Pontiac or Dearborn.

Joe Riker added that the committee already has the ability to approve claims of this nature, but that this policy puts more firm guidelines in place that the director can refer to. He said he believes it is a good policy and one that is in the spirit of offering extra help to county-veterans as the committee was tasked with.

All veterans requesting relief from the policy will be required to present a letter of recommendation from a psychiatrist, counselor, or mental health professional. All requests will also still have to be approved by a majority vote of the Veterans Committee. Committee member and attorney Kevin Nagle said he will take a closer look at the current draft of the policy and recommend any changes he sees fit. Nagle said he will have that prepared for the committee’s August meeting. (MK)