A look at several community collaborations working together to serve veterans.
by Megan Everett, Director, Veterans Program
When veterans come home they do not return to federal agencies; they return to communities across the country. And many of these communities do not have the knowledge, capacity and/or resources to support veterans, especially those facing service-related challenges. While most veterans successfully transition into civilian life, those who need assistance find that the post-service process can be frustrating and support hard to come by.
There are approximately 415,000 veterans in the Chicagoland area, 700,000 in the state of Illinois. The McCormick Foundation veterans program strives to make Illinois the best state for veterans and military families to thrive. One way we approach this mission is to support pathways and networks to coordinated outcome-based programs that provide transitioning service members, veterans and military families ease of access to supportive services. All the jargon aside, we know that one organization whether it be nonprofit, private, or public cannot do it alone. A coordinated network of services and activities working towards a common agenda where organizations are truly integrated and collaborating will allow veterans and their family members to reach their full potential and continue to contribute back to our community as they did while serving our country. Simply, if the mental health agency is networked to the workforce development agency which is in the network of the legal aid clinic that’s connected to a housing agency, veterans and family members are going to receive a more efficient and connected continuum of care.
Community collaborations to serve veterans and family members have emerged across the nation in various forms over the past several years. In April 2012, the Center for New American Security (CNAS) published “Well After Service: Veteran Reintegration and American Communities”, examining veteran wellness models and several leading collaborative efforts around the country to meet veterans’ needs. The report offered a best practices framework for community-based veteran reintegration that is the basis for community models to this day:
- Build on existing community strengths.
- Emphasize and/or expand the community potential to realize and sustain positive public health and social welfare outcomes.
- Foster self-determination among the population being served.