Community health summit held at Atlanta VA Medical Center



DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - A local veteran's hospital takes another major step to improve mental health care following a Channel 2 Action News investigation into patient deaths.

This comes after months of the Atlanta VA Medical center being under fire from federal investigators and powerful Congressional leaders over the quality of mental health at the hospital.

The embattled VA medical center is finally digging out from what has objectively been a very rough year.

In April, a Channel 2 Action News investigation exposed federal reports that blamed mismanagement by hospital leaders for at least three mental health patient deaths.

Congressional outrage culminated earlier this month at a Senate field hearing in Atlanta chaired by Sen. Johnny Isakson.

"The failure of the VA system in those cases was, to me, deplorable," Isakson said at the time.

The VA is now answering Isakson's call.

On Friday the Atlanta VA hosted a community mental health summit with dozens of local health care organizations and mental health advocates

The goal was to "share information, make contacts, network with one another and to try to bridge some of those gaps," said Dr. Monique Hunter. "I think that we have some opportunities here now."

One of those opportunities includes seeking out best practices to prevent more patients from falling through the gaps.

"If we take care of the family and the caregivers, providing them with information as well as support, then they can better take care of their ill relative," said Paul Wiser with the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Summit organizers said there's renewed energy and commitment to fix things, fast.

"We are all very, very motivated," Hunter said.

And while veterans' advocates seem encouraged to hear that, "I'm a realist and time will tell. I'm not going anywhere, so I'll definitely be here to ensure to my ability that those promises are kept," said Vondell Brown with the Wounded Warrior Project

As a show of support, Isakson gave the summit's opening address, but VA leaders aren't off the hot seat yet. They're set to appear before a House committee hearing in September.

Channel 2 Action News

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