Wounded Warrior Project makes $15M challenge grant
By Ben Feldheim
Wounded Warrior Project, a national nonprofit veterans service organization based in Jacksonville, Florida, has initiated a $100 million commitment to launch a first-of-its-kind national medical care network to connect wounded veterans and their families with world-class, individualized health care.
Rush University Medical Center is one of four academic medical centers in the U.S., and the only center in the Midwest, to be part of this new, national network, which will provide mental health care for post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and traumatic brain injury, also known as TBI. According to Wounded Warrior Project’s annual survey of the current generation of injured veterans, 75.2 percent of respondents (an estimated 41,000) experience PTSD, and 43.2 percent (an estimated 23,000) have incurred a TBI.
“The invisible wounds that our injured warriors struggle with every day have devastating long-term consequences on their health, yet too often they have difficulty seeking and getting the care they need for these conditions,” says Jeremy Chwat, chief program officer at Wounded Warrior Project. “We envision and seek to create a world where warriors who live with PTSD and TBI have improved, timely access to the quality care they need to recover, heal and move forward with their lives.”
Wounded Warrior Project has committed to expand regional outpatient programs and develop innovative two- to three-week treatment programs over three years to help veterans and their families at the Road Home Program, in Chicago; Emory’s Veterans Program at Emory University in Atlanta; The Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program in Boston; and Operation Mend Program at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Counting the Wounded Warrior Project grant, as well as the matching funds that each institution will secure, a total of $100 million will be invested in the four programs to serve veterans.
Rush’s Road Home Program, also known as The National Center of Excellence for Veterans and Their Families at Rush, will receive $15 million through a three-year challenge grant from Wounded Warrior Project, which will make matching contributions of $2 for every dollar Rush secures for the Road Home Program, up to $2.5 million a year raised by Rush. Each of the other network partners also will raise an additional $7.5 million for the initiative.
A $15 million jumpstart
The Road Home Program will use these grant funds and the philanthropic gifts and in-kind resources they match to expand its existing center and develop an intensive outpatient evaluation and treatment program. “In establishing this national network, Wounded Warrior Project will catalyze a profound expansion of our collective efforts,” notes Mark Pollack, MD, Grainger professor and chairman of the Rush Department of Psychiatry. “In partnership with our colleagues, we will better serve veterans and families in the Midwest and across the country.”
The treatment program will integrate behavioral health care, rehabilitative medicine, wellness, nutrition, mindfulness training and family support. Through this cutting-edge initiative, Wounded Warrior Project and its partners plan to serve thousands of wounded veterans and family members over the next three years.
“The program will pinpoint veterans’ and families’ needs and identify tools to help with specific problems and jumpstart the healing,” says Ellen McElligott, outreach coordinator at Road Home Program and a former U.S. Navy lieutenant commander. “Veterans and family members will be able to stay at Rush’s campus while taking part in the program.”
Offering the Road Home
Rush launched the Road Home Program in 2014 and to date has treated nearly 200 veterans and family members for a range of issues related to military service. These conditions include post-traumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury, child and family counseling, and other specific psychological and emotional needs.
Road Home also offers public awareness programming and training for primary care physicians and others to more effectively interact with and treat military personnel.
“Last year, Rush opened the doors of the Road Home Program, dedicating a unique combination of resources to address the emotional and physical repercussions of combat injury for veterans as well as their family members,” says Larry Goodman, MD, Rush's chief executive officer.
“In keeping with our longstanding commitment to the Chicago area community, Rush recognized an opportunity to contribute its clinical expertise to assuring veterans and their families timely access to evidence-based care for post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and related conditions," Goodman continues. "The Road Home Program functions as a regional health care hub, reinforcing the continuum of care in collaboration with VA and other providers as well as social service and educational organizations."
Several aspects set Road Home apart from many other veterans’ service providers. “We recognize family from an open and expansive perspective. A girlfriend, neighbor or friend could be part of a veteran’s family, as well as parents, spouses and children,” says Will Beiersdorf, the program’s executive director.
In addition, veterans can receive services at Road Home regardless of their discharge status or ability to pay. “If a man or woman has put on the uniform, we will try to help him or her,” Beiersdorf declares.
The program comprises staff, including veterans, with expertise in physical and psychological conditions, as well as wellness practices. Road Home is flexible and willing to craft services specific to veterans' needs.
The Road Home connects
Road Home has built strong relationships with Chicago-area Veterans Affairs institutions. VA offices refer veterans to Road Home, and likewise Road Home connects people to resources at the VA.
Many referrals have come from veterans themselves. A major reason why the program saw close to double the expected number of patients in its first year is the trust built by veterans working at Road Home — those who deeply understand the struggles fellow military personnel face.
“The fact that vets coming in are really benefiting from the care, and they believe in Road Home so much to stand behind us to bring in other vets, is a special thing,” McElligott says. “This is the first time since I left the military that I feel as if I’m actually making a difference.”
For more information about the Road Home Program at Rush, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (312) 942-8387.