Veterans Initiative Addresses Military Behavioral Health through Peer Training and Collaboration
Mental Health America of Greater Houston is deeply saddened and concerned about the recent shooting in Fort Hood involving a soldier. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and all who are affected by this tragedy.
While the details of this tragedy are still being investigated, it is suggested that the gunman experienced behavioral health challenges. The Houston/Harris County Veterans Behavioral Health Initiative at Mental Health America of Greater Houston encourages early identification and treatment for mental health and substance use concerns. Treatment can help prevent problems from getting worse.
“Greater Houston is home to the third largest veteran population in the country, and caring for our military service members, especially our veterans, is a priority in our community,” said Susan Fordice, president and CEO of Mental Health America of Greater Houston.
According to Fordice, many veterans choose Houston as their home because of its strong economy, availability of jobs, top tier education institutions, and affordable housing options.
The Houston/Harris County Veterans Behavioral Health Initiative at Mental Health America of Greater Houston is helping many to understand that the area also offers a strong behavioral health safety net to military service members and veterans.
Tony Solomon, director of the Houston/Harris County Veterans Behavioral Health Initiative says, “The initiative is becoming a vital outreach network for veterans coordinating resources and support to help eliminate the stigma of mental illness and to encourage behavioral health care for those in the veteran community.”
The initiative, established in August 2008 by Mental Health America of Greater Houston at the request of Harris County Judge Ed Emmett and former Houston Mayor Bill White, addresses the unique needs of this population by collaboratively providing behavioral health training to mental health professionals, peer volunteers, and organizations that work with veterans and veteran’s families.
Today, April 3, the initiative is training area veteran advocates as peer mentors in partnership with the Military Veteran Peer Network to prepare returning veterans to transition from combat to home. Once certified, mentors will become a peer support network to veteran-serving organizations and the Harris County Veterans Court.
The positive impacts of Veterans Court include reducing jail time, cost of incarceration, and criminal recidivism while improving mental health recovery and successful re-entry into the community. The model that the initiative is developing with the Veterans Court has the potential of being replicated in communities around the country.
As a community resource, the Houston/Harris County Veterans Behavioral Health Initiative is working to make sure that we adequately serve those who serve our nation by creating and establishing an awareness of the many supportive mental health efforts for military service members, veterans and their family members.
The initiative is also responsible for:
- providing female veterans who have experienced military trauma greater access to care through pro bono counseling through a partnership with Santa Maria Hostel.
- working to improve services and mentoring capacity with the state’s regional veterans’ courts through coordination of transition plans to avoid gaps in care with community based services. As an emerging program, we are participating in the 2014 Justice for Vets- Veterans Court Conference (Anaheim, California).
- improving community collaboration, coordination of services and public awareness between the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center and Harris County through their partnership with Mental Health America of Greater Houston and recommendations from community organizations that participated in the 2013 Gulf Coast Region Veterans Mental Health Summit.
Additionally, the initiative worked with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, on its national, award-winning awareness and prevention campaign, “Make the Connection,” (http://maketheconnection.net/) which focuses on veteran mental health, reintegration and suicide prevention issues and features many Houston area veterans from multiple eras and conflicts.
For more information about the Houston/Harris County Veterans Behavioral Health Initiative at Mental Health America of Greater Houston visit www.mhahouston.org.