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From Military to Mental Health Expert: Dr. Jill Palmer

COMMUNITY SERVICES

We sat down with Dr. Palmer to learn more about the ins and outs of our Veteran Services, what makes her passionate about this work, and just what “behavioral health” means! 

You’ve heard of a CEO and a CFO…but what about a CBH? 

The Chief of Behavioral Health is responsible for developing, planning, and supervising the mental health services of an organization. For Endeavors, this is a huge piece of what we do

As Endeavors’ first-ever Chief of Behavioral Health, Dr. Jill Palmer is in charge of keeping our eyes on what’s most important: effectively helping our military and Veteran clients. 

We sat down with Dr. Palmer to learn more about the ins and outs of our Veteran Services, what makes her passionate about this work, and just what “behavioral health” means! 

Your career path has gone through several iterations! Can you tell us more about your background?

I graduated with my Master’s degree in Social Work from Florida State University in 1999 and focused on working primarily with kids and their families. As my career began to grow, I started working with different populations—young people who were incarcerated, victims of domestic violence, military families, etc. I started a women’s empowerment class on the local Navy base, and one thing led to another. In 2010, I joined the Navy as a social worker. 

What drew you to Endeavors? 

I was in the military for 6 years, and became really passionate about Veteran health and suicide prevention. After I got out, I went for my doctorate in Social Work at the University of Tennessee, where I focused my research on the impact of one’s quality of life on suicide prevention in the Veteran population. (This led to the suicide prevention model that Endeavors has implemented at the Veteran Wellness Center.) When I connected with Endeavors, everything just fit. My dissertation ended up becoming the vision for the VWC that just opened last year. 

How do you define “behavioral health?”

Behavioral health is essentially the science of caring for others. Behavioral health programs and professionals provide services to people so that they can live their best lives. People who work in this field include fully licensed providers like counselors, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, social workers, case managers, and other various support staff.

And as Chief of Behavioral Health, how would you describe your role?

I get to help guide the ship and grow effective programs to care for those in need. I feel responsible for locating and finding evidence-based information, best-practice interventions and funding opportunities to continue the great work we do. I like to foster good ideas within my programs and the organization as a whole. Supporting the client experience, staff training, and program implementation across the organization is a key aspect of this role. That, and facilitating effective communication. Everyone has to be on the same page for our systems and structures to work. 

What makes you passionate about this work?

I love helping people. I’m a middle child, and I grew up in a family of helpers. We lived on a farm, and we were all hard-wired to pitch in for the good of the whole. Now, years later, being a Navy Veteran myself, I also love being able to support fellow Veterans and their families. 

Like many people in helping professions, I saw things I wanted to change and now, in this position, I’m able to. Our programs have saved lives. That’s really important to me. 

Do you have any special memories of the first person you helped professionally?

I do, actually. In the early part of my career, I worked with children at a hospice facility. I was working with a little boy who was near the end of his life, and I also ended up working with his brother. I had to help him understand that his older brother was going to be dying. We did a lot of play therapy, a lot of coloring and activities. And when my work ended with them, the brother gave me his favorite toy, a little figurine from Toy Story. I still have it on my desk. I’ve had it for 20 years.

What is unique about Endeavors’ behavioral health programs? 

Often, behavioral health programs are standalone services or are isolated services. But Endeavors provide other services—things like supportive housing, rapid re-housing, sheltering, recovery from disasters, supportive employment and case management—as a part of a holistic network of care. Endeavors is a diversified social service agency that allows for synergy across programs.  

Instead of, “Oh, the counselors are over there,” and, “The emergency service people are over there,” we’re all under one roof. 

What do you love about working at Endeavors? 

There’s not a “no” at Endeavors. Instead, it’s: “How do we do that? How can we make that happen?” People have told me that the magic behind my skill set is being able to look at solutions from different angles. And I’ve found that my colleagues at Endeavors have the same mindset. It’s refreshing and exciting. 

To learn more about Endeavors’ behavioral health and their programs, visit our website! We support the lives and well-being of Veterans, active duty service members, and military families, regardless of role while in uniform, discharge status, or combat experience. Our services include homelessness prevention, rapid re-housing, mental health care, counseling, peer support, intensive case management.  Counseling and psychiatric services to those impacted by housing instability.  The Veteran Wellness Center in San Antonio, TX, is home to many of these programs.  


About Dr. Jill Palmer 

Dr. Palmer joined Endeavors in June 2018 as The Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic Director at Endeavors in San Antonio. She is a Navy Veteran and her Doctorate in Social Work will be conferred on May 9th from the University of Tennessee. Her research focus is on Veterans exploring a relationship between suicide prevention and quality of life measurements.

Prior to joining Endeavors, she was the Clinic Director at The Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Cape Fear Valley.

Dr. Palmer has ten years of leadership experience through both the Navy and the private sector. She has led teams of social workers, psychiatrists, and other personnel; provided program oversight for multiple programs; developed policies and procedures to implement evidence-based practices; and has managed program budgets. With over 15 years of experience as a licensed clinical social worker, she is experienced in treating trauma in children, families, Veterans, and active duty populations. She is passionate about leading successful teams and empowering clients and staff to be the best they can be.

About Endeavors 

Endeavors is a longstanding national non-profit that provides an array of programs and services in support of children, families, Veterans, and those struggling with mental illness and other disabilities. Endeavors serves vulnerable people in crisis through innovative personalized services. For more information, please visit www.endeavors.org

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