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A roadmap for providing psychiatric services to incarcerated veterans: A challenging subspecialty 

A roadmap for providing psychiatric services to incarcerated veterans: A challenging subspecialty
A roadmap for providing psychiatric services to incarcerated veterans: A challenging subspecialty

James F. DeGroot

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date: 17 January 2020

The incarcerated population includes an increasing number of veterans with issues specific to their past military service. The demographics, criminogenic risk factors, and life experiences of incarcerated veterans, both combat and noncombat, differ substantially from nonveteran offenders. The trend observed with Vietnam veterans suggests that there is a gap between the time veterans are discharged from the military and the time they are incarcerated. With over two million personnel having served in Iraq and Afghanistan, the number of incarcerated veterans is likely to rise unless community resources are increased. Nonveterans are being treated with evidence-based correctional mental health and substance abuse treatment programs; however, similar programs have not been developed with the unique characteristics of veterans in mind. The pervasive trauma and posttraumatic stress disorders (PTSD) in this population can be profound. There is a critical need to create and implement evidence-based programs to treat the emotional, behavioral, and neurological needs of mentally ill and traumatized veterans. Society also struggles with the ambivalence of wanting to simultaneously punish and rescue them; mental health care providers struggle with their own emotional responses as they treat these distressed people. To help mental health care providers meet their personal and professional challenges in working with this complex population, an informational road map is presented in this chapter in order to navigate difficult terrain. The goal of this map is to help providers avoid potholes (of burn-out, cynicism, and malevolence) and head-on collisions with prison leadership and/or offenders resulting in a loss of credibility.

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