When Jill Lindsay finished speaking at yesterday’s Joint Mental Health Summit, the audience in EVMS’ Lewis Hall gave her a standing ovation. 

A Peer Recovery Specialist with Hampton VA Medical Center, Ms. Lindsay is a Navy veteran who shared her personal story of alcoholism and recovery with the 125 summit attendees. She credits the VA with guiding her onto a path of recovery when she reached out for help. 

“As a transitioning veteran,” Ms. Lindsay says, “I could have been a statistic.” She noted that 20 veterans commit suicide every day, “and that’s 20 too many.” After starting her recovery process in 1996, Ms. Lindsay turned her life around and went on to earn a master’s degree in gerontology. 

Hampton VA Medical Center and two EVMS entities — the M. Foscue Brock Institute for Community and Global Health and EVMS Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences — joined forces to present the day-long Joint Mental Health Summit on Tuesday, May 15. 

EVMS and Hampton VA Medical Center have each held mental health summits in previous years, but the pressing needs of the region’s veterans prompted the two institutions to come together around the theme, “Addressing Addiction and Mental Health for Hampton Roads Veterans.” Experts at the Hampton VA Medical Center report that 13,000 veterans in the region have post-traumatic stress disorder or a serious mental illness. 

Guest speakers for the summit’s morning sessions included Adam Gordon, MD, Chief of Addiction Medicine and Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry at the University of Utah; and Charles Engel, MD, Senior Scientist with RAND Corporation. They were followed by a panel of four Hampton VA medical professionals, who reviewed the center’s expanded mental-health services now available to the area’s veterans and transitioning military members. 

Four mental-health working groups, established during the first EVMS mental-health summit held in 2015, met during afternoon breakout sessions to continue their work to improve access to mental-health treatment throughout southeastern Virginia.

Pictured above: Cynthia Romero, MD, Director of the M. Foscue Brock Institute for Community and Global Health at EVMS, introduced a panel at the May 15 Joint Mental Health Summit.