NASHVILLE – Governor Phil Bredesen today signed Executive Order No. 71 establishing the Governor’s Council on Service Members, Veterans and Their Families. The Council is charged with facilitating collaboration and coordination within the current system of care to effectively meet the health, mental health and substance use disorder needs of service members, veterans and their families.
“There are an estimated 500,000 veterans in Tennessee, and meeting the needs of those veterans, service members and their families can not be the sole responsibility of any one agency or entity, but must be a collective responsibility of the entire state,” said Bredesen. “We must continue to expand and strengthen the system of care for these individuals and their families so that Tennessee is able to serve them in more coherent, effective ways.”
“Mental health and substance use disorders are real and ongoing issues for Tennessee service veterans and their families,” said Commissioner Virginia Trotter Betts of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities (TDMHDD). “By creating this Council, Governor Bredesen has demonstrated that veterans and their families are and will be a priority in Tennessee.”
The Governor signed the Order today to coincide with Operation Immersion, a two-day military immersion training. This training was developed for behavioral health care providers by TDMHDD and the Tennessee National Guard. It focuses on military culture and issues unique to those who have served in combat and experienced one or multiple deployments. Mental health and substance use professionals from 19 states and five tribal nations are participating in the third Operation Immersion August 30 – September 1, 2010 at the Tennessee National Guard Training Center in Smyrna, Tenn.
The formation of the Council was the result of a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration-sponsored Policy Academy where state officials and representatives from Fort Campbell, the Tennessee National Guard, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and other veterans service organizations met to address the needs of service members and veterans in Tennessee. The Council will build upon the efforts of the Tennessee Veterans Task Force, an active informal group that has been meeting for the past two years.
The Council will be made up of 25 members, including the commissioners of the departments of Veterans Affairs, Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, Health, Labor and Workforce Development, Human Resources and the Adjutant General of the Department of Military. The Speaker of the Senate will select one member of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives will select one member of the House of Representatives to serve on the Council.
Seventeen additional representatives will be appointed by the Governor, which will include service members and veterans where and when possible. The Council will be housed in the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs and will have an Executive Director to manage its efforts.