The report, issued by the nonprofit Rand Corporation, a global think tank, assessed the impact of the Welcome Back Veterans Initiative, a joint project of philanthropic groups and six major academic centers, including the UCLA Nathanson Family Resilience Center, which provide an array of patient care, educational and other services to veterans and their families. The initiative, funded by Major League Baseball Charities and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, was launched in 2008.
Between 2011 and 2013, the Welcome Back Veterans Initiative awarded grants totaling $5.4 million to support returning service members, veterans and their families. During that period, the six academic medical centers received funding. The RAND study found that initiative partners collectively provided screening, referral and treatment services to more than 3,600 individuals with military and veteran affiliations; networked with 188 organizations; and conducted 228 training sessions or workshops to build new skills and capacities among veterans, organizations that serve them, and community-based providers.
The report concluded that the Welcome Back Veterans Initiative could provide a model for similar efforts should federal officials decide to expand privately provided health care as part of its reform of the Veterans Affairs health system.
“Wartime military experience can be psychologically challenging for both service members and their families,” said Dr. Patricia Lester, the Jane and Marc Nathanson Family Professor of Psychiatry at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and director of the Nathanson Center. “As a nation, we owe these families the best possible mental health care services, supported by the latest research, to strengthen their ability to cope with the separations, reintegrations and traumatic events. That is what we have built at the Nathanson Center, thanks to the support of the Welcome Back Veterans Initiative.”
The UCLA Nathanson Family Resilience Center used the financial support from the Welcome Back Veterans Initiative to adapt, evaluate and disseminate innovative programs that decrease the negative effects of deployment among Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans and their families. Significant numbers of military personnel who served in those wars suffer from mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress, anxiety, trauma and even traumatic brain injury.
Since 2006, the Nathanson Center has partnered with the U.S. military to provide an array of evidence-informed programs in resiliency training that have touched the lives of thousands of military families facing the challenges of deployment and reintegration. The programs aim to build on strengths and reduce stress through communication, problem-solving skills and proactive strategies that include learning how to recognize and cope with emotional triggers.
Housed within the Semel Institute, the Nathanson Center’s Welcome Back Veterans program works closely with local, state, and national military and veteran leadership, community agencies, health and mental health systems, educational institutions and policy-makers. Combining research, practice and innovative technologies, the center develops family and community interventions — including web-based tools, education and training materials — that can be implemented in a variety of contexts. Programs include:
The RAND report, “Enhancing Capacity to Address Mental Health Needs of Veterans and Their Families: The Welcome Back Veterans Initiative,” is available at www.rand.org. More information about the Welcome Back Veterans Initiative is available at www.welcomebackveterans.org.
Other centers funded by the Welcome Back Veterans Initiative include BraveHeart Southeast Veterans Initiative at Emory University; Duke University Veteran Culture and Clinical Competencies (V3C) initiative; Massachusetts General Hospital’s Home Base Program; the University of Michigan’s Military Support Programs and Networks; and Weill Cornell Medical College Department of Psychiatry’s Program for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress.