The Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving’s (RCI) signature military caregiver program will expand to Virginia, North Carolina, and Los Angeles, California. With this latest growth, Virginia Veteran and Family Support (VVFS), formerly Virginia Wounded Warrior Program will extend Operation Family Caregiver’s strategy of serving families in states with the highest concentration of service members and veterans.
Since 2001, the United States has sent more than 2.5 million men and women to Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries, and more than 50,000 have been wounded. Beyond those visible injuries, nearly one-third of returning service members have a mental health condition or experienced a traumatic brain injury. Operation Family Caregiver is a proven program that provides free, confidential support to the families of these service members and tailored to each individual family’s needs. It is the only program like it serving military families.
“Our military has been on the battlefield for longer than ever before, and there are consequences to that,” said RCI’s executive director Dr. Leisa Easom. “When they come home, especially with injuries, they lean heavily on their husbands and wives, parents, battle buddies, whoever can help take care of them. And that takes a lot out of a person. Being a caregiver is not easy.”
VVFS Director Brandi Jancaitis states: “Family caregivers are a critical component to the veteran healthcare system in Virginia. Caregivers often ‘work’ on behalf of their veteran 24/7 and manage multiple other responsibilities. We are so thankful for the opportunity to champion Operation Family Caregiver and support these hidden heroes in the Commonwealth.”
Many spouses, siblings, and parents are thrust into the unexpected role of caregiver when their loved one comes home. Operation Family Caregiver provides caregiver “coaches” who teach military families the skills they need to overcome unforeseen challenges and cope more effectively with problems they never imagined. The program can be provided in person or via Skype.
Operation Family Caregiver launched in 2012 with catalytic funding from Johnson & Johnson. After an initial pilot launch in 2012, it has expanded in each subsequent year and earlier this year announced a partnership with Blue Star Families that will add two additional sites. Johnson & Johnson has partnered with RCI for nearly 15 years, and its support makes the latest expansion of OFC possible. Since its launch, OFC has helped more than 150 caregivers from across the country. Caregivers who have completed the program report being less depressed and more satisfied with their lives, have fewer health complaints, and are generally more prepared to take care of their families.
The OFC program in Virginia is a collaboration between the Riverside Center for Excellence in Aging and Lifelong Health (CEALH) and VVFS, a program of the Virginia Department of Veterans Services. The OFC Virginia team hosted a launch event for stakeholders on November 17th at Patriot’s Colony in Williamsburg. Those gathered for the launch included key partners and referral agencies for the OFC rollout including the Hampton VA Medical Center, local military installations, and Community Services Boards etc. Special guests included Jaime Areizaga-Soto, Deputy Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs, and Bill Downey, CEO for Riverside Health System among many others.
The program will specifically target two regions of the state: Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia, which together are home to more than 425,000 veterans. Implementation planning has already started and caregiver coach services are expected to start by March 2016. Caregivers in need of care coordination services prior to the formal start can contact Virginia Veteran and Family Support now at 1-877-285-1299. Caregivers can also pre-enroll now to become a part of OFC.
With this latest expansion, Virginia will join 11 other locations served by Operation Family Caregiver, including Johnstown, PA; San Diego, CA; Killeen, TX; Buffalo, NY; Tallahassee, FL; Augusta, GA; Houston, TX; Washington, DC; San Antonio, TX; North Carolina; and Los Angeles, CA.
About the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving
Located in Americus, Ga., the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving is a division of Georgia Southwestern State University. RCI was established in 1987 in honor of former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, a GSW alumna who serves as president of the Institute’s Board of Advisors. RCI supports family and professional caregivers through advocacy, education, research, and service. In 2012, with support from Johnson & Johnson, RCI established Operation Family Caregiver, which coaches the families of newly returning service members and veterans to manage the difficulties they face when they return home.
For additional information about the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving, visit www.rosalynncarter.org. For more information about Operation Family Caregiver, visit www.operationfamilycaregiver.org.
About Virginia Veteran and Family Support
Virginia Veteran and Family Support (VVFS) (formerly the Virginia Wounded Warrior Program) is a program offered by the Virginia Department of Veterans Services. VVFS monitors and coordinates behavioral health, rehabilitative, and supportive services through an integrated and responsive system of care. VVFS provides peer and family support and care coordination services to Virginia veterans, members of the Virginia National Guard and Armed Forces Reserves (not in federal service), and their families with a special emphasis on those affected by stress related conditions or traumatic brain injuries resulting from military service. For services or questions, please contact us at 1-877-285-1299 or visit http://www.dvs.virginia.gov.
Director of Communications
Virginia Department of Veterans Services
900 East Main Street, West Wing, 6th Floor
Richmond, VA 23219