In 2014, based upon evidence in provided by national and local news reports, a group of local providers of health, mental health, and social support services came together to discuss how to improve the care of veterans and their families in western Massachusetts.
Using a grant from Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, the Western Massachusetts in late 2014 the Veteran Outreach Project developed and conducted online and in-person surveys of Veterans and their family members to clarify and prioritize the challenges faced by Veterans and their family members in western Massachusetts. There were two focus groups: one comprised of Veterans, and another of family members. The focus groups were led by professional group facilitators. Information learned included the unmet needs of military Veterans and their family members when reintegrating into their communities and provided a baseline for recommendations to improve the delivery of care and services.
Based on their responses the Outreach Project developed the scope of its mission which is to educate community-based providers and the military and Veteran communities, including family members and thereby improve the availability, quality and outcomes of service rendered.
To date the Outreach Project has provided quite a few free educational seminars and webinars to civilian healthcare providers using local and regional experts. Collaboration between the Dept. of Veteran Affairs Medical Center and community service agencies has been facilitated. Educational resources and organized advocacy efforts have targeted state legislators to foster improved resource allocation and inter-organizational efficiency. Longer-term initiatives currently underway, capitalizing on the skills of local community experts, have begun to improve effective organizational care of veterans and their families and the design of a more systematic, inter-agency care of Veterans and their family members.