Tags: Give An Hour
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 – either a murder or a suicide by a servicemember or veteran – 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 – either due to location or bureaucratic obstacles to receiving care – 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. – 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 “support the troops,” this type of effort would truly be putting their money where their mouth is.