MFRI partners with Hamilton Center to promote high standards of care for military families

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) at Purdue University has reached a milestone in its goal of promoting high-quality care for veterans, current service members and their families. Hamilton Center in Terre Haute has become the first three-star center in MFRI’s new Star Behavioral Health Providers designation system for organizations.

The classification system is an expansion of the existing SBHP rating available for individual providers. The SBHP system for organizations and health centers was crafted in partnership with the Indiana Division of Mental Health and Addiction. It is designed to promote consistent standards of care for all military-connected individuals seeking services from community mental health centers.

“Hamilton Center’s efforts to progress in our designation program are truly remarkable,” said Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, MFRI director. “Their enthusiasm indicates a potential for similar growth and accommodation for service members, veterans and military families at all of Indiana’s community mental health centers.”

In a statement, the Indiana DMHA said: “Hamilton Community Mental Health Center has been a terrific leader in providing quality behavioral health services to veterans and active military by encouraging their staff to become certified Star Behavioral Health Program Providers. They have recently achieved their third-tier star designation, and the Indiana Division of Mental Health and Addiction is very grateful to Hamilton Center for prioritizing providing quality services to military individuals in their community.”

Through SBHP – a collaborative, multistate effort that includes the state of Indiana, the National Guard Bureau and the Center for Deployment Psychology – MFRI provides clinical education programs that prepare behavioral health professionals for dealing more knowledgeably with military-connected populations.

“For more than 10 years now, SBHP has provided specialized training for understanding and treating military service members and their families,” said Julie Williams, the MFRI program manager who coordinates SBHP. “We already offer a registry of providers who have undergone our training, and now with the center designation system, we can offer a directory of entire organizations committed to the competencies that we teach.”

To progress through the new four-star system, an organization must meet a progressively demanding set of standards that include military-focused resources, outreach programs, competency training in military culture and continuing clinical education in evidence-based practices with a track record of improving mental health outcomes in military families.

“In working with DMHA, we agreed that each of the four tiers should not only be attainable for Indiana’s community mental health centers, but also help ensure a meaningful, high-quality standard of care,” said Kathy Broniarczyk, senior director of outreach and operations at MFRI.

Hamilton Center had applied in early 2021 for a one-star designation.

“But as soon as they received their first star, administrators quickly returned to apply for” additional designation, quickly achieving their second star before moving on within the month to tier three, Williams said.

To advance from the second to third tier, or star, Hamilton Center staff boosted the visibility of its veterans’ support practices, initiated the process for becoming a TRICARE provider that accepts U.S. Department of Defense health insurance and increased its participation in public events designed to support regional military communities.

“The Hamilton Center began its Military Veteran Program just over five years ago, and we continuously strive to increase competency in treating our military and veteran population,” said Meghan Creech, Hamilton Center’s executive director for adult services, about the value of the SBHP designation to their operations. “Hamilton Center is committed to providing health care services to military-connected individuals throughout West Central Indiana.”

“The star designation process has assisted our corporation in creating policies and procedures informed by an understanding of military culture and provides an assurance that clinicians have training in military culture and evidence-based practices. We have had the opportunity to work closely with Star Behavioral Health Providers and look forward to our future endeavors together.”

The goal of the new center designation system is to help improve mental health indicators for military-connected families across the state. Although it may be several years before measurable clinical outcomes are available, MacDermid Wadsworth said she is encouraged by Hamilton Center’s enthusiasm for a centerwide commitment toward this objective.

“We are excited to see more community mental health centers partner with us in the future to help improve quality of life for service members, veterans and their families in Indiana,” she said.

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked in each of the last four years as one of the 10 Most Innovative universities in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at https://purdue.edu/.

About the Military Family Research Institute

Using data-driven solutions to real-world issues, MFRI works closely with collaborators around the United States on outreach, research and educational activities designed to improve the quality of life for service members, veterans and military families.

About the Hamilton Center

The Hamilton Center provides quality health care, wellness and human development services to central and west Indiana communities. The center has provided these services in-state for 50 years, with over 600 staff in 10 counties. Hamilton Center is a nonprofit regional system with offices designed to be convenient, private and confidential, which reduces the barriers for seeking psychological and mental health treatment.

Writer: Nick Pompella, Military Family Research Institute

Media contact: Matthew Oates, 765-586-7496 (cell), oatesw@purdue.edu, @mo_oates

Sources: Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth

Julie Williams

Kathy Broniarczyk

Meghan Creech

New Illinois program seeks to serve low-income, homeless and low-resource rural veterans

The Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) at Purdue University is collaborating with University of Illinois Extension and select Illinois food pantries and faith-based communities on Reaching Rural Veterans (RRV), a Purdue-based program that connects low-income, homeless and low-resource rural veterans with affordable housing, health care and other resources.

With support from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, RRV expanded this spring into Effingham, Fulton, Perry, Saline and Union counties in Illinois. Each food pantry is receiving grants, education and assistance to help them mobilize local resources for military and veteran families.

Roughly one-third of all veterans live in rural areas and are often less likely to have access to needed services than those in urban areas. Reaching Rural Veterans events provide opportunities to thank veterans for their service while also helping them find needed resources close to home, said Rena Sterrett, senior program administration specialist with MFRI.

To identify counties that could most benefit from the initiative, Sterrett and her colleagues at MFRI collaborated with representatives of Illinois Extension. After choosing five rural counties with relatively high numbers of veterans, Extension staff also located potential partner food pantries.

“Illinois Extension was a valuable partner in helping target counties that could most benefit from the program because of their intimate knowledge of the state,” Sterrett said.

As part of the grant process, MFRI representatives are educating food pantry staff and volunteers about the strengths and struggles of military and veteran families and helping them recruit military-connected organizations to participate in pantry events. Ultimately, Sterrett said, she hopes to reach 50 veterans in each of the participating pantries — a goal that will require coordination among area partners.

“Addressing a community’s needs for food, shelter and employment is an important step in establishing stronger bonds between local organizations and the military and veteran populations,” Sterrett said.

About Purdue University
Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked the No. 5 Most Innovative University in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at https://purdue.edu/.

About the Military Family Research Institute
Using data-driven solutions to real-world issues, MFRI works closely with collaborators to improve the lives of veterans and military families.

About University of Illinois Extension
The flagship outreach effort of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Illinois Extension offers educational programs to residents of all of Illinois’ 102 counties and beyond. Extension provides practical education you can trust to help people, businesses and communities solve problems, develop skills, and build a better future.

Writer: Kristen Cavallo
Media contact: Angela Roberts, akroberts@purdue.edu
Source: Rena Sterrett, rsterret@purdue.edu 

Purdue’s Military Family Research Institute to host Battlemind to Home Summit

Legal, mental health and community leaders will learn and share strategies to ease the transition from the battlefront to the home front for military personnel, veterans and their families during the 11th annual Battlemind to Home Summit on Oct. 27.

Hosted by the Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) at Purdue University, the conference brings together a variety of experts to inform and educate Indiana professionals of the critical issues facing Indiana’s military families. A preconference will take place on Oct. 26. Both the preconference and the summit will be held virtually via the Whova conference app.

The Battlemind to Home Summit will feature keynote speakers Froma Walsh, a leader in the fields of family therapy and mental health and co-director and co-founder of the Chicago Center for Family Health, and Chad Robichaux, president and founder of the Mighty Oaks Foundation. After overcoming his own personal battles with post-traumatic stress disorder and nearly becoming a veteran suicide statistic, Robichaux founded Mighty Oaks to serve military communities with one of the most effective faith-based combat trauma and resiliency programs available.

This year’s summit will address:

  • Issues regarding legal needs and support.
  • How to address physical and mental health concerns during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • The tools needed to create a sense of community within civilian life for military personnel.
  • 500 word essay helps within the community of civilians to achieve A grade

Participants of the preconference can select from one of the following three sessions:

  • The Intersection of Substance Use and Suicide: Understanding the Connection
  • Veteran Homelessness Community Forum
  • An Overview of VA and Military Benefits for Elder Law Attorneys and VA Accredited Representatives (this session is exclusively for legal professionals)

Past summits have taken place in Indianapolis and on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus and have attracted hundreds of attendees and participants from more than 100 organizations in Indiana and nearby states.

More than 400,000 veterans call Indiana home. Those still serving include 5,258 who are in active duty, 13,202 in National Guards and 5,553 in the Reserves. As a percentage of population, Indiana military-related suicide rates are 28.00 for every 100,000 persons versus 20.8 for every 100,000 civilians.

Registration for the conference is $45. The preconference costs an additional $20. Continuing education credits and scholarships are available. Registration is now open.

MFRI, which is based at Purdue, organizes the summit each year in partnership with the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis, the Indiana National Guard, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiative and the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs. Organizers collaborate with the Indiana State Bar Association and Indiana Office of Court Services.

The term “battlemind” initially was used by military to talk about the inner strength needed to face adversity, fear and hardship during combat. The application of the term then was broadened to take in psychological resiliency both during and after deployment.

More information about the summit is available online, on the MFRI Facebook page or on Twitter using #battlemindIN.

Madison County group receives support to help improve access to veteran resources

The Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) at Purdue University and the Purdue Center for Regional Development recently announced that the Madison County Joining Community Forces Network’s Military Supportive Communities Initiative (MSCI) Pathway Project proposal was accepted.

The group will receive a $2,000 grant to revitalize outreach efforts on resources available to community agencies, military service members, veterans and their families. Another aspect of the grant is to increase collaboration between the Madison County group and statewide resources and organizations.

“WorkOne is excited to have this opportunity to collaborate with other organizations in our community and be part of the Military Supportive Communities Initiative Team,” said Alan Janney, disabled veteran outreach program specialist with WorkOne. “We believe the collaboration of organizations through the Joining Community Forces Meetings and Workshops will unite us in our efforts to serve our military service men and women, veterans and their families in Madison County. We greatly appreciate Purdue’s Military Family Research Institute in providing us with this outstanding opportunity to serve.”

The Madison County group has been active for nine years. It provides Stand Down events and focuses on current issues pertaining to military and veteran families in Madison County. They started the MSCI process in April 2019 and submitted their Pathway Project application in May 2020.

Members of the team have been studying demographic and economic data on their county and developed the skills needed to identify and act on priorities designed to benefit military and veteran families.

“The proposal from the Madison County Joining Community Forces Network was excellent,” said Bo Beaulieu, director of the Purdue Center for Regional Development. “It is very ambitious but doable because of the commitment and passion of the Madison County team members.”

Writer: Matthew Oates, 765-586-7496 (cell), oatesw@purdue.edu, @mo_oates

View original Purdue University news release. 

Families Tackling Tough Times Together

Purdue University’s College of Health and Human Sciences (HHS) is pleased to launch Families Tackling Tough Times Together, a program to support families as they deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Guided by scientific evidence about family resilience, the “pop-up” program is being developed by HHS along with contributing partners from Purdue and beyond, with the aim of helping families strengthen their resilience while they cope with the crisis. Families are invited to join a public Facebook group where they will find materials and activities tied to a specific aspect of resilience. All materials are carefully vetted and include engaging and fun activities that fit easily into daily life. Families with children, youth, young adults and older adults will find materials tailored for them. Additional features include podcasts with experts, live events and community engagement activities. All are welcome; we especially welcome military families. 

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Col. Roger Peterman (Retired) discusses Battlemind to Home Summit 2019

Col. Roger Peterman, Retired, is an advocate and supporter of Battlemind to Home. Listen to him discuss Battlemind 2019 and benefits is brings to the greater Indiana military community.

Joining Community Forces Indiana a collaborative effort to serve military families

In 2014 Joining Community Forces Indiana (JCFI) was created to better serve service members, veterans and their families. An outgrowth of the Obama administration’s Joining Forces initiative, JCFI educates nongovernmental organizations, departments of state government, corporations, policymakers, local leaders and works to build and maintain robust working relationships among Indiana communities.

The JCFI Executive Committee facilitates workgroups that address yearly priorities. Each workgroup is comprised of interested professionals and agencies as well as a representative from the Executive Committee. 2019 workgroup priorities include:

  • financial literacy training opportunities;
  • distribution of up-to-date information on how to secure emergency financial assistance;
  • awareness about suicide prevention strategies;
  • providing suicide prevention training for individuals and organizations; and
  • addressing the immediate and long-term needs of homeless and at risk individuals.

MFRI program administration specialist and MFRI liaison, Rena Sterrett, said communication is key to serving military families across Indiana communities.

“The Executive Committee strives to communicate with local groups across the state that serve military and veteran families. Communication between the Executive Committee and Indiana groups helps to strengthen collective efforts in helping military and veteran families across the state of Indiana.”

Learn more by visiting the JCFI Facebook page or contacting Sterrett at rsterret@purdue.edu.

JCFI is a collaboration between the Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) at Purdue University, the Indiana National Guard (INNG), the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs (IDVA), the Veterans Benefit Administration (VBA) and the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). These organization form the JCFI Executive Committee.

Hungry veterans need help. Here’s how communities can provide it.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Nearly one in four U.S. veterans faces hunger. These are the people who have served overseas, responded to disaster areas and sworn to protect their country. 

A recent study by Purdue University’s Military Family Research Institute at 10 faith-based food pantries in Indiana and Kentucky – five pantries in each state – suggests there is promise for underserved veterans and their families.

Through its Reaching Rural Veterans initiative, the Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) developed a pilot program to evaluate resource and food security in rural veterans. It is the first such study, and results were published in the Journal of Public Health.

Reaching Rural Veterans helps local food pantries develop and host monthly resource fairs that bring together organizations to make sure veterans have access to veterans’ associations, benefits, housing, health care and other needs.

To participate in the program, the food pantry staff was asked to plan resource fairs and complete cultural competency training, including awareness of issues facing veterans. Purdue’s MFRI and the University of Kentucky’s Department of Family and Consumer Sciences led the training.

“Working with pantries is cost-effective because they already have physical locations and staff,” said Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, a professor of human development and family studies, and director of the MFRI. “Several pantries still continue to do these events.”

The Salvation Army in Anderson, Indiana, is one of the sites that continues with a regular resource fair and food distribution. It became the site after another organization discontinued hosting the program.

According to databases, there are more than 9,000 veterans in Indiana’s Madison County. Shelly DeLong, social services coordinator for The Salvation Army in Anderson, said the program has helped veterans who have served in war or peace, but most of them are 50-plus years old, have health issues or have a disability.

DeLong was a member of the initial community work group in Madison County and has been working with volunteers to draw more veterans into the event.

On April 5, DeLong and a group of volunteers served beef and noodles, green beans, mashed potatoes, cake and drinks to 23 veterans and two family members who came to The Salvation Army for a resource fair. In addition to the meal, fellowship and the occasional war story, the veterans and their families were able to leave the event with food and appointments to address their various issues.

 “It is good to see them come in, get checked and get access to resources. Most of them do use the food pantry,” DeLong said.

“One of the surprises was that we had contact with so many veterans,” MacDermid Wadsworth said. The goal, originally 300 participants, was easily surpassed, with 1,094 veterans — 430 in Indiana and 664 in Kentucky. “That was the reason we did this, as those veterans earned the right to get resources.”

The study saw improvements in food pantry staff’s knowledge of veterans’ needs, as well as increased participation by veterans.

Of the 1,094 participants, 234 veterans participated in follow-ups regarding food security, social services and health conditions. The group discovered the need to improve dietary intake, which would help with chronic health conditions. In addition, the results could lead to overall health improvements if veterans have access to proper programs and benefits.

 “By developing Reaching Rural Veterans, we are trying to extend the front door of the Department of Veterans Affairs to these rural areas,” MacDermid Wadsworth said.

The study was a collaborative work by members of Purdue’s College of Health and Human Sciences, including MacDermid Wadsworth; Andrea Wellnitz, a project manager at MFRI; Breanne Wright, a doctoral student; and Heather Eicher-Miller, an associate professor of nutrition science.

This work was supported by the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of Rural Health (VA251-15-C-0041). 

Writer: Matthew Oates, 765-496-2571, oatesw@purdue.edu, @mo_oates

Sources: Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, shelley@purdue.edu , @MFRIPurdue

Shelly DeLong, Salvation Army, 765-644-2538, shelly_delong@usc.salvationarmy.org 

Note to Journalists: For a copy of the paper, please contact Matthew Oates, Purdue News Service, at oatesw@purdue.edu


ABSTRACT

Reaching rural veterans: a new mechanism to connect rural, low-income US Veterans with resources and improve food security

B.N. Wright, S. MacDermid Wadsworth, A. Wellnitz and H.A. Eicher-Miller

Background: Rural, low-income US veterans face additional barriers to accessing food and resources compared to urban veterans. Based on both social-ecological and cultural competence approaches, the Reaching Rural Veterans (RRV) pilot intervention built on the existing infrastructure of food pantries to improve food security and connect rural, low-income veterans with resources. This article describes the process of implementing and evaluating RRV.

Methods: Five rural food pantries within each of two states, Indiana and Kentucky, received training in cultural competence and held monthly outreach events where food and services were offered to veterans. Veteran adult participants completed an assessment at baseline and 3- month follow-up that measured food security using the US Household Food Security Survey Module and self-reported resource enrollment. Repeated measures logistic regression models evaluated the odds of improving food security and resource enrollment from baseline to follow up (significance P < 0.05).

Results: RRV recruited 234 participants; 53% completed the follow-up assessment. At follow-up, the odds of household (P = 0.009) and adult (P = 0.01) food security increased, as did enrollment in one or more of the following resources: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplemental Security Income, General Assistance or Assistance from the Township Trustee (P = 0.005).

Conclusions: RRV yielded promising preliminary results of improved food security and resource use.

Regions Bank VP offers financial insight and resources for military and veteran families

Military and veteran families have different financial needs and opportunities in comparison to their civilian counterpart. Schiela Pena, a military child, is the vice president of community relations at Regions Bank. Listen to her discuss financial options and resources for military and veteran families.

Participants sought: Conversations about post-deployment adjustment

University of South Florida researchers are seeking eligible military spouses or significant others to participate in a study that seeks to understand the experiences of partners who have (or have had) concerns about their service member’s post-deployment adjustment.

The research results may inform programs that assist military and veteran families.

Participation in the study involves two steps. First, spouses/significant others will take a 10-minute online survey to make sure they are eligible. The survey will also ask about their relationship history. Second, those interested in participating in a 45-60 minute follow-up video chat interview will be asked to provide contact information for scheduling purposes. The interviewer will inquire about their ideas and experiences as a military spouse or partner.

Those who complete the survey will receive a $5 digital Amazon gift card. Those who elect to participate in the interview will receive an additional $20 Amazon gift card upon its completion.

Only the researchers will see the information provided, except as may be required by law. No military organizations will have access to this data. If a report of this study is published or presented at a professional conference, no identifying information will be used.

In order to be eligible for the research, participants must:

  • be the spouse/significant other of a military service member or veteran;
  • have been married or together since before the service member’s most recent deployment;
  • have had one or more conversations with the service member about the challenges of readjusting to civilian life post-deployment; and
  • be 18 years old or older.

The service member or veteran must have (a) served in the U.S. military, (b) been deployed abroad (outside of the United States), and (c) returned from the most recent overseas deployment within the last two years.

For more information, or to participate in the research, email milfamstudy@usf.edu.