Reaching out to veterans

New collaborative spearheaded by The Kaufman Fund will improve access to clinical services and mental health needs for veterans and their families

By Charlotte Beard

It’s been stated that every day 20 veterans die from suicide in the United States and 14 of them were not enrolled in the VA health care system. For two years The Kaufman Fund, known for their support of veterans and their families, worked to implement measures that will address the mental health concerns for this population. 

On May 9, the new Mental Health Collaborative, which is a partnership created by The Kaufman Fund with the Veterans Administration (VA) and five mental health service organizations, was officially announced at the American Legion’s breakfast meeting in Creve Coeur. The new program will improve access to clinical services and mental health needs for veterans and their families.  

The five agencies that are part of the collaboration to provide services and expand mental health access are: Jewish Family & Children’s Service, Lutheran Family and Children’s Services of Missouri, Missouri Veterans Endeavor, Provident Behavioral Health, and St. Louis Counseling (formerly Catholic Family Services). 

Ken Weintraub, who is certified in social work, serves on the Advisory Board for The Kaufman Fund and is the volunteer coordinator for the collaborative shares how the initiative began.

“The Kaufman Fund leadership realized that were gaps in the provision of mental health for veterans, particularly for those who are married, have a partner or children. It is our understanding that in many cases the VA cannot provide counseling for spouses and children. Mental health often is derived from a total family experience. So, the ability to begin linking the VA with these organizations within the VA’s CHOICE Program made a lot of sense because the organizations serve anyone in the family where counseling and service would be appropriate,” he said.

Wayne Kaufman, President for The Kaufman Fund stated, “The VA can take care of a veteran that has mental health (issues) but it’s hard for them and sometimes hard for the veteran to get the children and the family involved. A mental health problem is no different than a drug problem or an alcohol problem and it affects the whole family. By going through The Kaufman Fund, with our partners and all these different agencies, we’re able to take on the veterans that the VA cannot help or get to. (In addition), there are a lot of veterans for whatever reason that don’t want to go to the VA. So, this is another avenue to go through The Kaufman Fund – to get these veterans and these families help. St. Louis is going to be a pilot program with the VA, and I am sure that when the VA sees (its progress), with our help they’ll be able to take it across the United States.”

The Kaufman Fund stresses the importance of all veterans and their family members being aware of the number to call in an extreme crisis, such as suicide: 1-800-273-8255. However, this mental health service is being made available to improve mental health as well as help prevent suicide cases. The organization stresses that no veteran needs to be enrolled in the VA prior to them or any family member receiving assistance. Kaufman shares that not many veterans are enrolled in the VA.

Weintraub stated, “Our main objective is to help veterans link up with the VA when we get a call for (various) help. Many of these calls go directly to Wayne Kaufman as individuals call for dental assistance, legal assistance or other needs.” 

Weintraub further explained that the advantage to having this collaborative that includes the five agencies is that one of them likely can assist in cases where the VA cannot. One example of a case in which the VA cannot help is in the case of a veteran who lacks an honorable discharge.

The Kaufman Fund provides that a referral to one of the five agencies in the collaborative may be issued by way of the VA St. Louis Health Care System (VASTLHCS), which determines specific service eligibility, or referral by other means if the veteran calls or walks into one of the agencies. In the case of VASTLHCS or its designated third-party, eligible veterans are provided a list of resources which includes the information about the agencies. In some cases, VASTLHCS will recommend a specific agency for the veteran based on the veteran’s needs. 

For an agency that receives a direct call or walk-in from an eligible veteran not interested in services through the VA, the veteran will be enrolled in the agency’s appropriate services and be required to release information to Missouri Veteran’s Endeavor. If the agency is uncertain of the veteran’s eligibility it will provide the veteran the website (https://www.vets.gov/healthcare/apply) and toll free phone number (1-877-222-8387) to verify their eligibility.

“The agencies who are partnered with us are all licensed clinicians,” states Weintraub, “whether they be professional counselors or social workers. They all have appropriate training and licensing with the state.”

The Kaufman Fund welcomes all donors and sponsors interested in their efforts call 314-753-8355. For more information about The Kaufman Fund Mental Health Collaborative visit https://www.thekaufmanfund.org/mental-health-collaborative. 

CUTLINE: Photo courtesy The Kaufman Fund On May 9, the new Mental Health Collaborative, which is a partnership created by The Kaufman Fund with the Veterans Administration (VA) and five mental health service organizations, was officially announced at the American Legion’s breakfast meeting in Creve Coeur. The new program will improve access to clinical services and mental health needs for veterans and their families.