VA medical experts expect increase in substance abuse among veterans during stay-at-home orders

The Clarksburg VAMC is not the only VA center in our state with low numbers. Beckley VAMC has...
The Clarksburg VAMC is not the only VA center in our state with low numbers. Beckley VAMC has reported no cases of in-patient COVID-19 cases.(WDTV)
Published: Apr. 22, 2020 at 5:55 PM EDT
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Nationwide, coronavirus cases among the veteran population spike. The Military Times reports COVID-19 deaths in West Virginia surged 13% over the weekend.

Department of Veterans Affairs release a tool to track COVID-19 cases in veterans across the country.

Over 5,700 patients have been treated in VA hospitals across the country, but in Clarksburg, just one patient has been reported.

"The important thing for people to remember is that the V-A is open and ready to take care of our veterans," said Dr. Chad Priestly, Associate Chief of Staff of Behavioral Health and Whole Health at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center.

The virus is not the only concern for Veteran Affairs staff.

"We know 40% of veterans will experience alcohol abuse at some point in their lives," said Dr. Priestly.

The stress of the virus, a lapse in social structure and a break from routine lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms.

"We will see and anticipate an increase a little bit further down the road as well," said Dr. Priestly.

A 2018 study published by the Department of Veterans Affairs found loneliness is a driving factor behind depression and suicide in veterans.

Resources are still in place. The veteran crisis line is available and so is the medical center.

"They are able to call here and self-refer. So that is available. If they need to have someone to talk to, we have someone available, as well the emergency department is available 24 hours, seven days a week with a psychiatry provider on call," said Dr. Priestly.

The medical center also offers residential treatment options for veterans struggling with addiction.

This Power BI Dashboard illustrates national surveillance data.

Click on a red circle to view facility information. Clicking a second time clears the selection.