A New Jersey health care group has received a three-year $375,000 federal grant to address veterans' mental health care.

Mary Ditri, director of professional practice for The Health Research and Educational Trust of New Jersey, says "the veteran community has a unique cultural set of needs and issues that when dealing with mental health care, providers should be aware of."

Mental Health First Aid partners veterans with mental health experts and instructs the community and other health care providers on the signs and symptoms of mental health crisis and how to respond.

The organization is part of the New Jersey Hospital Association.

Ditri says the funding will support a model to expand knowledge and access to veteran mental health services that will go well beyond the three-year grant.

"It is not just about classroom time. It is about building a system of care for these folks," she said. "We are also building a team of trainers, because our goal is to really build sustainability in this initiative, so that when the funding ends, we still have a cadre of trainers out there who will continue this work."

"We know that close to 50 percent of war veterans in the VA health care system receive a mental health disorder diagnosis, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or depression," she said. "This training is aimed specifically at the cultural nuances of the veteran community, and helps those working with veterans to respond appropriately."

Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5

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