NYAPRS Note: The following focuses on a new pilot project aimed at providing military families and veteran families with easy to use tools to assist with support, parenting stressors, trauma recovery and suicide prevention. The program will be run by the Mental Health Association of NYS, in collaboration with the Mental Health Associations in Nassau and Jefferson Counties and is funded through a grant from the BristolMyersSquibb Foundation.
New York Program For Military Embraces Recovery, Peer Support
Mental Health Weekly February 20, 2012
Citing a mission to address the mental health needs of returning military, veterans and their families, the Mental Health Association of New York State (MHANYS) launched a two-county initiative to provide them with peer and recovery supports in a model they hope will eventually expand throughout the rest of state and perhaps the country.
The Resiliency and Recovery Initiative for Returning Military and their Families is a two-year pilot MHANYS implemented in November 2011. “We want to ensure any mental health needs they might have are addressed without being intrusive,” Glenn Liebman, MHANYS CEO, told MHW. “We’re also trying to represent the needs of the military families.”
“These are people who are heroes; they’re supporting our country,” said Liebman. The initiative is funded by a Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation grant.
MHANYS sees an obvious lack of mental health services for military members and their families, Liebman said. The program is currently conducted in two counties: Nassau County, where the highest number of veterans in the state reside; and Jefferson County, home of the U.S. Army military base, Fort Drum, said Liebman.
The initiative will be evaluated through the Institute for Community Research at the College of St. Rose in Albany, said Liebman. The anticipated program outcomes are:
– Increased engagement in mental health services as appropriate.
– Increased peer to peer support among veterans and nondeployed parents.
– Increased use of recovery tools among families with deployed service members, and military personnel returning from deployment as well as veterans.
– Decreased suicide rates among veterans exposed to interventions.
Liebman said MHANYS definitely wants to expand the initiative to other counties throughout the state. “That’s our goal, but we need funding to sustain this,” he said. “We want to improve [mental health] education and provide support for military families and veterans returning from war,” he said. “We believe this program could become a national model as well.”
The impetus for Resiliency and Recovery Initiative for Returning Military and their Families stemmed from a prior MHANYS initiative, Supporting Parents with Psychiatric Disabilities Project (SPPDP), said Liebman. The project was designed to raise awareness of parenting strengths and issues among providers of mental health services, to train mental health service providers in treatment issues, and support needs of parents with serious mental illness.
The program was slated for five years; however, the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH), which provided initial funding, could not continue to do so beyond the first year due to budgetary constraints, said Liebman, adding that OMH was pleased with the initiative. With the few funds still available, MHANYS is developing a curriculum based on the program training for use by OMH, he said.
The parent initiative was comprised of tools MHANYS is using for the military program, including recovery tools and the WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) program, Liebman said. WRAP is a national evidence-based initiative for various populations with mental illness, designed to promote higher levels of wellness, stability and quality of life; decrease stigma; and increase participants’ sense of wellbeing.
The WRAP initiative for the members of the military and their families will include trauma-informed care and recovery, advocacy and advanced directives – the latter, also known as a living will – are instructions provided by individuals specifying what actions should be taken for their health in the event that they are no longer able to make decisions due to illness or incapacity, noted Liebman. The military program will include services for those affected by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), he said.
“We saw that the WRAP program could be useful for the military and families as well,” said Liebman. “We are training military members and Mental Health America [MHA] staff to be facilitators in WRAP and peer support training.” MHA in both counties have also established advisory committees comprised of military members and their families along with mental health and medical experts, said Liebman. It is important that the initiative has the support of all stakeholders, he said.
The early feedback from the program has been positive, said Liebman. “We will show outcomes to the state legislature to demonstrate the success of the program,” he added.