VA Investigates Mental Health Care of Atlanta Shooter

Patterson had two mental health appointments in March, according to a source and copies of the appointments AJC reviewed. The first was in person and the second was a video call. He had two more appointments in his April. One was an in-person appointment, which he never attended. He had one last in-person meeting with his VA health care provider on Thursday. According to sources, Patterson’s medical records show that his mother, Mignonée Patterson, came with him to that final appointment and asked for a prescription for Ativan specifically for her son. It is used to treat anxiety and insomnia, among other uses.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Mignonne Patterson said her son wanted Ativan, but his VA medical team gave him it, fearing he might become addicted. Sources told AJC that Patterson was instead prescribed another drug, buspirone, which treats anxiety.

After the shooting, the Associated Press reported that Mignonne Patterson said her son had “some kind of instability going on” because of the medication she started taking on Friday. It is unknown if it was a prescription for buspirone.

The FDA frowns on Ativan’s use for “the stresses of everyday life,” saying its effectiveness for long-term use has not been fully evaluated and continued long-term use is not recommended. Ativan is addictive and you can stop using Ativan.

“That family, that family,” Mignonne Patterson told the Associated Press, and began sobbing. I lost a loved one because he became mentally unstable because he didn’t listen.”

VA spokesperson Terrence Hayes said in a statement late Wednesday night: For patient privacy, we cannot discuss personal information of veterans without their written consent. ”

According to a recent whistleblower complaint, the AJC reported in late April that thousands of mental health calls to the Atlanta VA went unanswered over the past year. According to the complaint obtained by AJC, of ​​the approximately 22,000 mental health calls to the Atlanta VA healthcare system in the 12 months ending in January, approximately 7,200 were not answered. The reason is that the VA’s human resources department is slow to hire applicants who can answer the phone, according to a complaint filed with the Inspector General’s VA office. VA is investigating the complaint.

Whistleblower complaints come as government officials mount pressure to improve mental health services for veterans in Georgia and across the country. The federal government is funding suicide prevention, and Georgia legislators recently passed a bill to improve access to mental health for veterans in remote parts of the state.

But veterans and advocates say the basic system for treating the mental health of thousands of Georgia veterans is broken.

Jim Lindenmeyer, director and founder of the Cherokee County Homeless Veterans Program, previously told AJC. He has even spoken to veterans who have made appointments, but the therapist never shows up.

“Calls are canceled or no one is there,” said Lindenmayer, whose program serves many veterans struggling with mental health. “These veterans [mental health conditions] I have already triggered them and VA is not responding. ”

Staff writer Alexis Stevens contributed to this report

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