I was saddened to read about the troubled Army sergeant who is accused of killing five fellow servicemembers this week in Baghdad.¬† However, I know that an incident of that kind ‚Äď either a murder or a suicide by a servicemember or veteran ‚Äď is probably more likely to happen after that person returns home.¬† ¬†The signature injuries of this prolonged war are Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and I have read that the symptoms can appear years after the incident. So, while we can argue about the type and amount of care that sergeant received in theater, I believe our collective efforts could probably be better put to use in finding long-term care solutions here at home.
I recently read about a relatively new non-profit organization called Give An Hour (www.giveanhour.org) that solicits donations of time from the civilian mental health industry to servicemembers and veterans.¬† The organization has a roster of 4,000 licensed mental health professionals in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.¬† Servicemembers simply go to the web site to find a licensed counselor in their area and make an appointment.¬† Give An Hour vets the counselors, so that the servicemember can be assured of their credentials.¬† Since its inception in 2005, Give An Hour has donated 12,421 hours of mental health services, which equates to an in-kind donation of more than $1.2 million (assuming a nationwide average counseling rate of $100/hour).¬† They have been endorsed by numerous national mental health organizations.¬†
What I like about this model is that it appears to fill a gap in military and veterans services ‚Äď either due to location or bureaucratic obstacles to receiving care ‚Äď at a much reduced cost.¬† Give An Hour states a goal of recruiting 10% of the approximately 400,000 license mental health professionals in the U.S. ‚Äď with a projected, estimated savings to the military of $4,000 a week in mental health costs.¬† That can add up to some pretty hefty savings for taxpayers and a big fat cut through the red tape for servicemembers and veterans.¬†¬†
Could this model be applied to other apparent needs for veterans?¬† How about financial management advisors?¬† How about job placement services?¬† Again, the military and the VA provides these services and can do it well, but are they convenient for the individual client?¬† Are they easy to access?¬† How long does a servicemmeber or veteran¬†have to wait?
Too often, the military and the VA are expected to provide¬†the entire¬†dedicated pool of professionals to serve all these needs.¬† Like Give An Hour, why not tap into the wealth and capacity of private industry to volunteer their time and expertise?¬† When private industry says that they ‚Äúsupport the troops,‚ÄĚ this type of effort would truly be putting their money where their mouth is.
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