For one veteran, the Northfield VA clinic did not provide sufficient mental health care.
Charles Ingram, 51, who served his country honorably, walked up to within 75 feet of the VA clinic in Northfield, New Jersey last Saturday, saturated himself in gasoline and lit himself on fire.
Mr. Charles R. Ingram III of Egg Harbor Township was airlifted Saturday afternoon to the Temple Burn Center in Philadelphia, where he died later that night.
He didn’t leave a note.
The director for Atlantic County VA said the clinic’s daytime hours are a hardship for veterans who work.
While officials have yet to find any information explaining the 51-year-old man’s suicide, veterans’ advocates say his death could be a response to the VA’s serious lack of timely, accessible medical and mental health care.
“At the very least, his actions were an expression of need. We have been asking the VA … for years for Saturday appointments and late Wednesday night appointments, and were told it was going to be taken care of,” Bob Frolow, Atlantic County Veterans Affairs director, told the Press of Atlantic City on Wednesday. “As of today, it is still not.”
The Wilmington VA Medical Center issued a statement saying it was “saddened to learn about the tragic incident that took place outside of the Atlantic County Community Based Outpatient Clinic. … Our thoughts and prayers are with the victim’s family, friends and neighbors.”
“Due to the open investigation and patient privacy concerns, we will not be commenting further at this time,” the statement said, The Press reported.
A VA official told the paper that 22 veterans commit suicide each day in the country. The suicide rate of recent veterans is reported to be 50 percent higher than that of non-military civilians.
Mr. Ingram was reportedly receiving treatment from the Atlantic County Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC), part of the Wilmington VA Medical Center system, via their newly implemented telemedicine psychiatric platform. The system was implemented at the Northfield VA clinic in 2011 to increase veteran access to care through improved technology. The telemedicine model is cheaper, but more technology dependent. The results, tragically, speak for themselves.
For those who don’t know, Telemedicine is the use of telecommunication and information technologies to provide clinical health care at a distance. It helps eliminate distance barriers and can improve access to medical services that would often not be consistently available in distant rural communities.
There are reports that the operators make it difficult for patients seeking help but the Northfield facility is a good one. The Choice Act which is supposed to allow veterans to use their services elsewhere isn’t working because the VA won’t pay or the operators won’t put them through to the people who deal with the Act.
There are no photos of Mr. Ingram and there is no information about who he was, where he served, nothing. His tragic, desperate, painful death will soon be forgotten and has barely been mentioned.
There is a tragic irony in where he died, so close to help. The reason why he chose this death and this lonely spot has died with him.