Cobb Collaborative Veterans Strategy Team
By Irene Barton, Cobb Collaborative Executive Director
At the Collaborative, we characterize our work as focused on improving outcomes for all children and all families in our community. That also includes our veteran families. Cobb is home to an estimated 50,000 veterans, with about 8,000 of those being women veterans. And just like other households, there are challenges and opportunities present. Out of a deep desire to serve, our Veterans Strategy Team (VST) is convening organizations that serve veterans and their families in Cobb. The VST was created to address the challenges faced by Veterans who struggle to get services that they need and deserve. While there are many organizations in Cobb serving veterans, sadly there are still many veterans who go unserved or underserved due to a variety of reasons. The needs veterans have and the challenges they face are diverse. Sometimes, federal, state and local agencies are involved which can complicate matters. Therefore, the proper pairing of a veteran with services that can help him or her in a timely fashion is also a unique process.
For veterans and active military members, mental health statistics are sobering. According to one of the largest studies of mental health risk among the U.S. Military, the rate of major depression among soldiers was five times as high as civilians, and the rate of PTSD was nearly 15 times higher. Left untreated, these invisible wounds can have devastating effects on veterans and their families. And nearly 20% of service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan reported experiencing a probable traumatic brain injury, according to a study from the RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research. According to the RAND Center, people affected with depression, PTSD, and traumatic brain injury can exhibit higher rates of other unhealthy behaviors, higher rates of physical health problems, and higher rates of suicide. That is why our collaborative efforts to support veterans in Cobb is critical.
At the VST’s March meeting at American Legion Post 169, we welcomed nonprofits, churches, government agencies, elected officials, Veterans Service Organizations and individuals to learn more about each other’s work and explore ways to partner and collaborate. The VST is not designed to duplicate any services that veterans deserve and need. Rather, the focus is to be a conduit or “traffic cop” that can guide veterans to the service agencies that can best help them. This requires information about each organization and the services it offers and what it does not offer. The VST steering committee is working on gathering this information. Again, the work is so important because of what we know about the mental, emotional and psychological stressors on our veterans.
To be a part of the VST, please contact Irene at firstname.lastname@example.org. Currently, the group is convening on a quarterly basis, but there is much work going on between meetings. The next VST meeting is June 15 at 9am, and we look forward to seeing you there.
We also look forward to seeing many providers at the Veterans We Care Resource Fair on May 13-14 at the Cobb Civic Center. Please share the information with all veterans that you encounter.
“It’s about how we treat our veterans every single day of the year. It’s about making sure they have the care they need and the benefits that they’ve earned when they come home. It’s about serving all of you as well as you’ve served the United States of America.” President Barack Obama