The Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center in Iron Mountain hosted its second annual Mental Health Summit today and several public and private health officials were in attendance.

The conference ran from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and featured presentations on how a veteran’s mental trauma is perceived by the public as well as the resources available to veterans and their friends and families. One of the major takeaways from today’s conference is that the VA and other community agencies offer a wide array of help to veterans with mental health issues, but an ideal system of care is still a long way off.

Chuck Lantz, the County Veterans Service Officer for Dickinson County, said, “You’re seeing with the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans a lot of criminal activity; you’re seeing a lot of substance abuse, because they’re masking some of those mental health issues with drug abuse and alcohol. We have a long way to go and a short time to get there, really, because so many veterans have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. I don’t think the VA is prepared for what’s coming down the pipe.”

There were also three separate sessions that covered topics such as what caregivers and family members can do and the employment and homelessness problem many veterans face.

“Basically the services that are available for veterans and their families should all be contained on UPCAP’s 211 call center,” said Deb Trombly, who works with UPCAP. “The entire event is a great opportunity to learn about all the human and social services available to veterans and their families.”

The summit was attended by County Veteran’s Service Officers from around the U.P. and northeast Wisconsin, representatives from various community agencies and even family members of veterans with mental health issues.