Los Angeles, Calif.: | In response to a growing awareness of trauma, sexual assault, and mental health concerns faced by women in the U.S. military, a new initiative is designed to reach out to women veterans and connect them with services and resources specific to their needs. U.S.VETS and EDC will lead Women Vets on Point, a new program funded through a consortium of Southern California foundations, to be developed and pilot-tested in Los Angeles County beginning in October 2017.
“While women have long served in the armed forces, the support services available have not always been tailored to meet the unique mental health and psychosocial needs of the female veteran population,” said Steve Peck, president and CEO of U.S.VETS, the largest veteran-specific nonprofit housing and service provider in the country. “We’re pleased to work with EDC to develop and pilot a program in Los Angeles that will inform the way these services are delivered across the nation.”
With more women now working in combat roles, their deepening engagement with conflict places them at greater risk for trauma and other mental health conditions. Research has shown that women are also more apt to have experienced sexual trauma and are more reluctant to seek care. Women Vets on Point seeks to partner with veterans’ organizations and service providers around the country, including the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, to increase support and services for women veterans.
“Research has shown that mental health issues faced by women veterans are especially acute,” said David Offensend, president and CEO of EDC, a global health and education nonprofit organization. “We also know there are many barriers to women seeking care, including the need for childcare or experiences with trauma such as domestic violence or sexual assault. By working directly with women veterans to understand what best fits their needs, we hope to make it easier to connect them with services.”
As part of the program, a team of researchers, program developers, and service providers will create a set of tools to reach out to and assist women veterans with the challenges they may face in civilian life, including PTSD, military sexual trauma, substance abuse disorders, and domestic violence. The program will combine outreach, education, engagement, and screening and referral services regarding housing, employment, and legal services. Los Angeles County was selected for the pilot because it is home to a significant percentage of California’s 185,000 women veterans.
“It is imperative that we ensure that female veterans who have served our country are provided the services that they need and have earned,” said Los Angeles County supervisor and former U.S. secretary of labor Hilda L. Solis, who is helping to launch Women Vets on Point. “I have long been an advocate for expanding mental health services, for veterans, and for combating sexual assault. I am pleased that Women Vets on Point will help women veterans right here in LA County.”
In addition to U.S.VETS and EDC, program partners include the Frameworks Institute and Reingold Communications, who will work with women veterans to develop and test messages and methods that motivate help-seeking and recovery. A Web portal designed to serve the needs of women veterans will facilitate education, self-help, crisis management, and connection to services and peers. The program will be evaluated with the goal of achieving statewide expansion and then national expansion.
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U.S.VETS is the nation’s largest nonprofit provider of housing, mental health, and employment programs for veterans, serving more than 4,000 men and women each day at 11 sites across the country. Learn more at www.usvetsinc.org.