ALBANY, NY (WTEN) — Between the years of 2015 to 2020, 580 military members died by suicide. The Department of Defense says it’s working on removing the stigma around mental health issues and providing adequate services. 

The departments say there is a lack of specialists on hand; adding to the staffing shortage, military treatment facilities say they feel burnt out and fatigued. 

Military health specialist leader, Dr. Richard Mooney said one way to alleviate the shortage is by extending treatment providers. This would mean adding physicians assistants, nurse practitioners and licensed counselors to be included in treatment plans.

The department is also looking to do a massive expansion of telehealth.

“That’s one of the top priorities for the defense health agency. Our SMEs suggest that between 50 to 75 percent of behavioral health conditions can be treated virtually depending on acuity. That would free up time to manage more severe cases,” said Mooney.

He also says they are working to improve management of scheduled appointments. Each one will be reviewed one to three days in advance to ensure every patient is linked to the right provider.