As part of its effort to train and retain top-notch psychologists, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will earmark $5.3 million in new funding for 160 additional psychology internship and postdoctoral slots, said VA Central Office psychologist Robert Zeiss, PhD, at the 11th annual VA Psychology Leadership Conference, April 24-27 in Dallas.

The money will bring the total of psychology training positions at VA facilities across the country to more than 600, a 25 percent increase over this year's trainee pool, noted Zeiss, the associate director of associated health education in the VA's Office of Academic Affiliations.

The VA's Bradley Karlin, PhD, also briefed attendees on the department's national suicide prevention hot line (800-273-TALK). Since it debuted last August, the hot line has fielded 13,746 calls, resulting in 2,919 referrals to mental health professionals and 726 "rescues." (See "With soldier suicides on the rise, Army looks to the buddy system")

The annual conference--which drew more than 160 VA staff psychologists and administrators--is an opportunity for attendees to share best practices and new research and promote leadership opportunities. The conference also featured a workshop on clearing the VA's promotion and advancement hurdles and a panel on integrating mental health services into primary-care settings. Other speakers detailed the cutting-edge work VA psychologists are doing to treat and assess traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The annual conference is sponsored by APA's Practice Directorate, the Association of VA Psychologist Leaders and Div. 18 (Psychologists in Public Service).

--J. Chamberlin