JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – It’s a new rule that aims to help the well-being of our service members.

The Department of Veteran Affairs is expanding access to emergency mental health services. This effort is all in part in helping our veterans during a mental health crisis, free of charge.

“Having that availability to have access to care is a huge step forward for veterans,” said Monroe Holcomb, outreach manager for the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Hope For The Warriors.

This new ruling gives veterans accessibility to inpatient care for up to 30 days or outpatient care for up to 90 days.

“Nationwide, we typically see that 22 number, we estimate that there’s about 22 veterans a day who take their lives,” said Commander of the American Legion Post 539, Elizabeth Hartman. “There’s a lot of people that this impacts, and it’s wonderful to see it finally happen.”

Retired service members can now get treatment at any health care clinic.

“I think it’s really important that people know that it’s not just VA clinics that have the access now. And these rural areas in the south, a lot of people aren’t close to a VA clinic. It is any single hospital that has an emergency care unit, you can get that health care service,” added Hartman.

One facility included and accessible for people in Eastern North Carolina, the Steven  A. Cohen Military Family Clinic in Jacksonville. 

“We don’t want cost to be a barrier to care. We want that to be the last thing on your mind. And especially if they are in a crisis situation, they are seeking help,” said Holcomb.

With this change, they hope more veterans reach out for resources when they need it.

“When people are looking to help us, we have this mentality that we can take care of ourselves, that’s when we’re getting deeper and deeper into that hole,” he said. “We’ll wait till we’re at the bottom of the barrel before we’re looking for help.”

This ruling goes into effect on January 17th. 

For information on the Department of Veteran Affairs ruling, click here.

For mental health resources from the American Legion, click here.

For information on the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic, click here.