The New Jersey Hospital Association (NJHA) and United Health Foundation brought together health professionals and military leaders today to raise awareness about the complexities of managing veterans’ health and examine ways to improve access to care through innovative partnerships and community engagement.
The forum, “Managing the Complexity of Veteran Health: Serving Those Who Have Served,” highlighted a $1.35 million partnership between NJHA’s Health Research and Educational Trust (HRET) and United Health Foundation to bolster veteran health programs, including the hiring of additional Veteran Navigators to facilitate access to high-quality, community-based mental health, behavioral health and supportive services for veterans and military families in underserved areas of the state.
“Veterans and military families face unique health needs, and it is often a challenge for them to access the care and programs that help ensure they receive quality care,” said Betsy Ryan, president and CEO of the New Jersey Hospital Association. “This partnership with United Health Foundation is providing valuable resources that are helping raise awareness and improving the health and wellness of our veterans and service members.”
According to the National Institutes of Health, military service members and veterans face health issues differently than civilians. The stressors of being in combat, combined with being separated from family, can put service members and veterans at risk for mental health problems. These include anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse and depression that, in extreme circumstances, can lead to suicide. According to a study commissioned by the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) and United Health Foundation, there is a preparedness gap among most community-based mental health providers in being able to take care of the special needs of military veterans and their families.
Through its partnership with United Health Foundation, NJHA is using a peer-to-peer model with Veteran Navigators to connect with their fellow service members to facilitate access to the care that veterans and their families need.
“The work of NJHA is improving access to care for veterans and military members,” said New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno. “NJHA’s partnership with United Health Foundation is the type of public-private approach that will make a difference in the lives of our neighbors, particularly those with the greatest needs.”
“Helping veterans and their families with support to improve their quality of life is mission critical,” said Michael Cunniff, Adjutant General, New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. “Our service members, veterans and their families often face unique challenges to care including having access to care providers who understand their specific needs. By raising awareness and having veterans engage directly with service members and their families, we are helping improve their personal health and recovery.”
During the forum, guest speakers discussed important health topics facing veterans and military service members including military culture, injury and recovery programs, PTSD, suicide prevention and navigating the VA system, among others. NJHA provided an overview and update on how the organization is working collaboratively with other partners in the state to implement a comprehensive model to close the gap between care providers and veterans through efforts that increase awareness of available support, and improve skills of mental health professionals in addressing veteran-specific issues and needs.
U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur (NJ-3) praised the work on behalf of veterans and service members. “I applaud the work of all of the organizations gathered today for this important forum that is raising awareness about improving care for our veterans and service members who have sacrificed so much for our nation. Our freedom endures because of the men and women in uniform who defend it. As they come home, we must serve them as well as they’ve served us, and connect our troops with the programs and care they need.”
The Veteran Navigators, along with the entire project team at NJHA, are being cross-trained in Mental Health First Aid, Health Coaching and supplemental topics with an opportunity to become Certified Prevention Specialists to help meet the unique needs of military service members and their families.“This partnership between NJHA and United Health Foundation is helping to ensure that our military men and women understand the programs and services available to them to improve their care and quality of life,” said Heather Cianfrocco, President, Northeast Region, UnitedHealthcare. “The Veteran Navigators are a critical resource, understanding their experiences and their needs, and helping to alleviate the stresses that our nation’s service members, veterans and their families endure every day.”
Pictured L to R: Paul Marden, CEO, UnitedHealthcare of New Jersey; Elizabeth Ryan, Esq., President & CEO, New Jersey Health Association; U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur (NJ-3); New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno; Michael Cunniff, Adjutant General, New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.