Champions For Veteran Mental Health: Endeavors And Cohen Veterans Network

COMMUNITY SERVICES

How The Cohen Veterans Network and Endeavors teamed up to bring innovative mental health care to Texas Veterans.

You may have heard of Steven A. Cohen, hedge-fund manager and owner of the New York Mets. But did you know he is also a cornerstone of a revolutionary set of  wellness services for Veterans and military families? 

In 2016, Cohen “made a $275M commitment to launch a network of mental health clinics in April of 2016 to serve Veterans and families.” He called it the Cohen Veterans Network (CVN), and to date there are 20 clinics providing mental health care to post-9/11 Veterans, active-duty, and their families across the continental United States, including the clients Endeavors serves in Texas. 

But how did this all get started? Let’s take a look.

A Service Movement Inspired By A Son’s Story

Image courtesy of Cohen Veterans Network

Although military service didn’t run in his family, Cohen came face-to-face with the challenges of military life and the subsequent return to the civilian world when his son, Robert, enlisted in the Marines shortly after graduating college in 2007. At the height of the US fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, Cohen watched his son walk towards danger to serve his country. 

Robert Cohen made it home safe, in good health with plenty of support and opportunities to build a stable, self-sufficient, and happy life. But Robert would tell his father stories of his friends who returned from one war only to face a new kind of battle stateside. 

In addition to physical injuries, many of these Veterans suffered from severe mental health issues such as PTSD, depression, and suicidal behavior. Furthermore, the Cohens saw the ways the invisible wounds of combat and service impacted not just the service member, but the entire military family: Wives trying to care for husbands with undiagnosed or untreated disabilities; children losing parents to substance abuse or suicide; marriages falling apart, partners developing mental health issues; parents grieving…the reach of military-related trauma is extensive and all-encompassing. 

For years the Department of Veterans Affairs was the only resource for Veterans, and the single-source system resulted in long wait times. Cohen quickly realized that someone had to step up and provide additional resources and options to help the VA serve those who served our country. 

An Innovative Approach To Veteran Mental Health Care

As a longtime philanthropist, Cohen was experienced in launching service initiatives, and in 2013 he pulled together funds and a team to launch a pilot program offering high-quality, low-cost and no-cost mental health care to Veterans. 

According to a case study done by Philanthropy Roundtable on CVN, this pilot program “learned that the key to getting Veterans to enter PTSD treatment, and stick with it…is to involve family members.” By 2015, the inaugural Cohen Clinic was serving over 350 military families a year and seeing enormous treatment success. 

From that small seed of success, Cohen grew a transcontinental network of clinics serving post-9/11 Veterans and military families across the country. In 2016, CVN opened its first five clinics. And one of them was the Cohen Clinic at Endeavors in San Antonio, Texas. 

Endeavors And CVN: The Dream Team of Veteran Wellness 

The success of Cohen’s pilot program begged the question: Where do we go from here? 

In 2015, Cohen hired a firm to look at cities with high numbers of Veterans, particularly Veterans facing mental health challenges, and identify nonprofits in those areas with missions that aligned with CVN

At the time, Family Endeavors (as we were called back then) had already made an impact for local Veterans experiencing homelessness through our Veteran Supportive Services and Supportive Housing programs. CVN reached out to Endeavors then-CEO, Travis Pearson, about opening a clinic in Bexar County. The rest was history.

How the Cohen Clinics at Endeavors Eliminate Barriers to Care

“It was really important for CVN and Endeavors to make sure there were no barriers to access,” Clinician Chandra Peterson remembers of her first years working with Endeavors as an Intake Specialist at the San Antonio clinic. “If they didn’t have their DD214, we’d accept their ID. If they didn’t have transportation, we’d get them here. If people couldn’t pay, that wasn’t a barrier. It was a different approach to mental wellness and mental health.”

“We were known for helping Veterans experiencing homelessness,” Housing Program Director and former Clinician Alanah Lavinier explains. “The Cohen Clinics allowed us to expand and help Veterans with mental health problems, and their families. This was the first time their families thought, People see us. We also have scars of war. We got it. We’re Veterans ourselves, we’re family members ourselves.”

After witnessing Endeavors’ success with Veterans in San Antonio, CVN supported our initiatives to open two more Cohen Clinics in El Paso and Killeen.

“For someone getting out of the military, what we offer at the Cohen Clinics is unparalleled,” says Ismael Lopez, a Veteran of the Marines and Outreach Director for The Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Endeavors, El Paso. “There isn’t anything else like this. The Cohen Veterans Network were pioneers in bringing this kind of effort to El Paso.” 

Expanding Veteran Mental Health Care Across Texas

Today, Endeavors helps battle the Veteran mental health crisis at three Cohen Clinics across Texas – in San Antonio, El Paso, and Killeen. We are fortunate to be supported by funding from both Cohen Veterans Network and the Texas Health and Human Services Veterans and Family Alliance Grant Program

At each clinic, we offer high-quality, in-person, and virtual one-on-one, family, and group counseling for the entire military family. Additionally, our case managers connect clients to essential resources including housing, financial assistance, legal services, employment, education, etc. All three clinics regularly host support groups and wellness and life-skills events. Our teams also assist with medication management for clients who need it.

“They’ve helped us get to the Veteran Wellness Center (VWC),” Lavinier reflects. “If we didn’t have the Cohen Clinics, we wouldn’t have the VWC. It allowed us to grow into the field of mental health, and it built the bridge to Behavioral Health.” 

“As leaders in the Veteran nonprofit space, we cannot emphasize enough how incredible it is to be a get to partner with the Cohen Clinics serving Veterans and their familiesto do this work in Texas,” says Chip Fulghum, Endeavors COO and Air Force Veteran. “Together, we are helping serve the people who served our country and have already sacrificed so muchabove all else. They deserve the highest level of care, and our clinicians work tirelessly to ensure that’s what they get.” 

Who Does Endeavors Serve At The Cohen Clinics?

The Cohen Clinics at Endeavors provide services to post-9/11 Veterans, including National Guard and Reserves, regardless of role in uniform, discharge status, or combat experience, active duty service members (with a TRICARE referral), and military families. We seek to complement care provided by the Veterans Administration (VA) and to provide support for three specific under-served groups:

  • Veterans who do not receive mental health care in the VA system, whether for reasons of limited accessibility or other factors (including personal preference).
  • Veterans who are ineligible for care in the VA system (e.g., due to discharge status, conditions that are not service-connected).
  • Family members of Veterans, reservists, National Guard, and active duty service members, regardless of dependent status which includes parents, siblings, spouses/significant others, children, caregivers, and others.

(Further Reading: 5 Specific Ways Endeavors Is Helping Battle The Veteran Mental Health Crisis At Its Cohen Clinics)

Get The Care You Deserve

Are you a Veteran, active duty service member, or military family member living in Texas? Our teams are here to serve you and your family! Find an Endeavors Cohen Clinic near you and get connected with the care and services you deserve. 
If our office is closed and you need immediate support, you can still speak to a peer at Vets4Warriors. In the event of a mental health emergency, please refer to the following resources: 9-1-1, the National Veterans Crisis Hotline (800-273-8255, press 1), National Women Veterans Hotline (855-829-6639), the CHCS Crisis Line (210-223-7233), and the San Antonio Police Department Mental Health Unit (210-452-3042).

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